Inclusive. There may not be a better word for Psalm 148, and this makes a lot of sense, as we move from Nativity to Epiphany. Christ is born, fulfilling the prophecy of a Jewish Messiah! In the coming days, we will study the exile and then the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. The inclusive nature of salvation for all of humanity is evident. But wait. There’s more.
The command to praise does not begin and end with people, alone.
Angels. Sun. Moon. Stars. Water and the creatures within it. Fire. Snow. Wind. Land. Trees. Animals on the ground and in the sky. People. Rulers. Common. Young and old. Men and women. The people of God. All are called to praise.
It should not be lost on us that this beautiful piece roughly follows the order of creation, for the Lord has been worthy of praise since before the dawn of time, and there are no exceptions to this rule. Sometimes I wonder if we do not give enough credit to God’s natural and wild creation. Even inanimate objects seem to have some agency! Jesus confirms this when he speaks of the rocks crying out, should his disciples remain silent.(See Luke 19:40) Paul suggests that God’s, “eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made,” from the beginning.(Romans 1:20) Surely, the praise of the people is essential, but so is the praise of the entire created world.
St. Francis of Assisi’s, Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, perhaps inspired by this Psalm, brings out the importance of both taking responsibility for and partnering with the whole of creation in order to bring praise to God. St Francis emphasizes that the Lord should be praised by all “creatures” bearing the likeness of the Lord, beginning with the natural world—the sun and moon who reflect the Lord’s light— and extending to all people, created Imago Dei, also image bearers. This cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual, secular and holy.
All of creation is the Lord’s and, therefore, should ascribe praise to the creator, whose name, interestingly, is the only name worthy of our humble exaltation. This seeming exclusivity, running through the words of the Psalm, stands in stark contrast to the inclusivity of the worshippers. Praise the name of the Lord, and only the name of the Lord! May we be drawn close, continually reflecting God’s glory and bringing honor to the one who is worthy by recognizing the significance of and working with all of creation to bring redemption to humanity and the world.