(Note: This is the first one in a series of posts where we will publish a near-monthly letter from the Dr. Lockwood that usually goes out to donors and supporters of Multnomah's ministry.)
Of Psalm 100 & Thanksgiving
I am not sure why I often think of Psalm 100 when Thanksgiving rolls around. Probably, it’s because I memorized it as a child and it still sticks. After all, who can ever forget that we are to “make a joyful noise!”
Apparently, I’m not alone. Christians over the centuries have called this psalm, “The Old One Hundred.” This November, in church services across the land and in hundreds of thousands of Christian homes, this psalm will be recited, read, prayed, or sung before the ritual of devouring the turkey begins.
What delights me most is that this venerable poem (for Hebrew poetry it is) is such good theology. Its five short verses are anchored by two great truths about God. Let’s explore them together, with illustrations from God’s work in, through, and with the people of Multnomah.
The Lord is God
The first great truth affirms the greatness of God (v. 3). The Lord—Yahweh—is God, indeed! And fittingly, this portion of the psalm is a call to exuberant worship. Shout! Rejoice! Sing! The psalmist summons us to uninhibited praise because that truly is the only acceptable response when we stand in the presence of the Lord our God.
Our students take this call to uninhibited, joyful worship literally. This fall, our college chapel program moved onto campus, meeting often in the Joseph C. Aldrich student cafeteria. It’s not as convenient as Central Bible’s auditorium: extra sound, lighting, staging, and a digital projector and screen had to be added. A crew of student volunteers moves the dining room tables out of the way and arranges the 400 chairs in rows before chapel begins. The space itself is barely large enough for our student body as they pack into the chairs or stand shoulder to shoulder in the back.
But they love it! They define “close communion” creatively. Veteran chapel-goers like me can sense renewed energy and excitement among the students for prayer, singing, and responding to the Word of God.
The psalmist, after exclaiming that the Lord is the sovereign God, then reminds us of who we are. Notice the two descriptions (v. 3): we are His creatures (the Lord made us) and we are His sheep (the Lord shepherds us). Just think of it! Our great God is our Sovereign and our Shepherd. We, on the other hand, are His fragile vessels and His vulnerable lambs. No wonder we are called to worship this sovereign Shepherd. All we are, all we have, and all we can become belong to Him.
As a campus community, we have witnessed—and endured—great sorrow this year. Dr. Joe, Multnomah’s beloved third president, passed away last February from a debilitating fifteen years with Parkinson’s. In May, Laura Silva and her brother-in-law alumnus Tony Silva were tragically taken in a climbing accident. This September, Gordon Peterson, a well-regarded high school teacher in Vancouver and a 1984 alumnus, was struck and killed while riding his bicycle. His daughter, Julia, a freshman at Multnomah this fall, continues to grieve with her family.
We cannot explain these events, nor are we called to do so. Rather, we find comfort in a sovereign Shepherd who loves His sheep.
The Lord is Good
The second great truth underscores the goodness of God (v. 5). The Lord our God is a good God, the palmist explains. And our appropriate response to this is thanksgiving—thanks laced with the praise that a supplicant would bear to a majestic ruler as he passes through the palace gates and enters the royal court. How fitting! We worship God because He is great. We thank Him because He is good. And, God’s goodness, the psalmist tells us, is expressed in two magnificent ways: His enduring love and His everlasting faithfulness.
At Multnomah we have witnessed God’s enduring love time after time. We see it in the hundreds of new and returning students He entrusts us with each semester. Each one is a walking miracle of God’s love and grace. We observe it in the ways transformation takes place in those lives, even within the span of a semester. We catch in the students that go out from here into all kinds of effective service—from vocational to marketplace ministries.
We also experience His everlasting faithfulness. I don’t need to remind you that we are in a difficult economic climate. Our enrollment has suffered in our traditional programs this fall, in large part because many students cannot afford to attend Multnomah right now. All of us on faculty and staff are cutting necessary expenses to keep ahead of the financial curve.
Yet the Lord remains faithful, especially to some of our faithful donors have had to reduce their support as they deal with depleted retirement savings or loss of jobs. I am so grateful at this special time of year for your faithfulness in supporting this work. You indeed reflect God’s faithfulness to us!
Making a joyful noise to the Lord,
Daniel R. Lockwood