Psalm 148 is appointed to be read in churches today. It is a psalm of praise which is, according to the dictionary, “the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something, the expression of respect and gratitude.” Although we don’t seem to read many psalms in church these days, and John Wesley said that many of them were unfit to take a place in Christian worship, I do feel that we have something to learn from psalm 148 about praise.
Praise is certainly a sound management technique. A manager who habitually catches employees doing things right, doing things well, doing things beyond the call of duty, and says so, preferably in the hearing of others, is much more likely to secure cooperation when s/he asks for a favour or for a change in working practices of some sort.
But praise is not just good for the people on the receiving end. It simply does you good to find stuff in your life to approve of, to admire, to respect, and for which to be grateful. Concentrating on the positive is good for the soul, good for the blood-pressure, good for the state of mind, and might help stop a slide into domestic violence or alcoholism if the Samaritans are engaged. People who find much to criticize in others and in their own situation may be right but those who praise have much more fun.
Jesus was a master of looking into people and finding goodness to work on. Think about that other reading appointed for today in the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel. Jesus hears Peter say that he will always be loyal, and yet foresees his cowardice and betrayal. Which aspect of Peter does he dwell on? Jesus sees the corrupt Matthew putting other people’s money into his own offshore accounts, but sees a valuable disciple.
In our attempts to become more Jesus-Shaped we could do well to start with some gratitude. Our gratitude muscles are perhaps a bit flabby just now. There is so much to complain about, so much in others to criticise, and so much not quite right in our lives (all the fault of other people). We need to exercise our gratitude muscles to make them strong again. Let’s make a point of finding something good about every situation, something to approve of, something to admire, something to respect, something to be grateful for, and then let’s tell people about it.
Be honest, with whom would you rather be stuck in a lift? Victor Meldrew?