Praise That Won't Forget - Psalm 103

An worship service of praise shaped in both its content and structure by Psalm 103, acknowledging personal blessings and celebrating God's gracious attributes in the life of a child of God.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

This entire service of worship is shaped in both its content and structure by Psalm 103. A favorite of many, it acknowledges personal blessings and celebrates God's gracious attributes in the life of a child of God.

Thankful praise is the dominant theme of the psalm. David not only calls us to praise God, but gives us many reasons and motivations for doing so, based on his experience of the mercy and compassion of God. As this psalm guides us in worship, we can sense a kinship with David's heart.


WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Prelude: "Variations on 'Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above' ", Haan

The Call to Worship

Introit: "We Come with Joyful Hearts", M. Bedford

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:

Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Amen!

*Song: "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above" (PH 483, PsH 465, RL 146, RN 52, TWC 50)


THE CALL TO PRAISE

A Reading of Psalm 103:1,2

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being,
praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits -

Message

Song: "Bless His Holy Name/Bless the Lord, O My Soul" (Bless His Holy Name: PsH 627, RN 16, TWC 36; Praise Psalm 103:WOV 798)


IN TIMES OF NEED

A Reading of Psalm 103:3-7

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name,
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The Lord works righteousness and justice
for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel;

Message

Song: "I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord" (PsH169, RN111, TWC30)


MET BY GOD'S COMPASSION

A Reading of Psalm 103:8-14

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

Message

Songs: "Bless the Lord, My Soul", refrain only (RN 114, SNC 256)
"What Shall I Render to the Lord/to My God" (Rockingham, st. 1,4,5: PsH 178, RN 116; Downs, st. 1,3,5: TH 637)
"Bless the Lord, My Soul", refrain only (RN 114, SNC 256)

(The offering is received during the singing.)

The Prayers of the People:
-for the children and youth of our world
-for those with special needs
-for the unsaved of the world


FRAGILITY SURROUNDED BY LOVE

A Reading of Psalm 103:15-18

As for man, his days are like grass
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with
their children's children -
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

Message

*Song: "My God, How Wonderful You Are/Thou Art", st. 1,4,5 (St. Etheldreda: PsH 499, TH 35; Pye, CMD, st. 1,3: TWC 65)


PRAISE THAT SEEKS TO EXPAND

A Reading of Psalm 103:1,2,19-22

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits -
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

Message

*Song: "Praise the Lord! O/Ye Heavens, Adore Him" (Christ Church Sydnor, st. 1-3: PsH 148; Faben, st. 1-3: TH 17; Austria, st. 1-2: RL 3, RN 75, TWC 17)

*The Benediction

*Song: "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" (PH478, PsH475, RL144, RN53, TH76/77, TWC25/26)

Postlude: "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven", Burkhardt

* - you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

This is an example of how a sermon and service can be meaningfully divided into several meditations/sections. Psalm 103 lends itself to such a possibility. It would be helpful to begin the study of this psalm by reminding worshipers that all of God's children deal with pain and hurts in their lives from time to time, and to help them get in touch with their own recent hurts. Then encourage them to consider this service of worship a time of holy leisure with a psalm that has much healing in it.

The first meditation begins with David's call to praise. What is notable is that he is talking to himself (O mysoul..) and that he is warning himself of the persistent danger of forgetting the good gifts of God (forget not all his benefits).

The second meditation examines David's testimony: recounting his experiences of tasting the grace of God in multiple ways. The praise that arises out of such personal experiences, and holds them in memory, will be a praise that doesn't forget!

God's merciful compassion is the focus of the third meditation. The permanence and expansiveness of such compassion is very real in David's mind and heart. A good memory is necessary to hold such examples. The more we remember the more praise-filled we are.

But we are so fragile. Our own lives, and what we see in the experiences of others, constantly remind us that we are like grass that can quickly wither. You may want to recount some of the experiences recently in your congregation which reinforce that awareness. David's great conviction is that all our fragility is surrounded by God's sovereign love.

The final lines of the psalm express a deep longing that the choir which expresses God's praise continue to expand - my whole soul, angels, all heavenly hosts, and all God's works. It seems he is anticipating heaven, and if the psalm ends with a note of homesickness for heaven.wonderful!

Music Notes

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:

PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. The music of this service is based in the psalms; most of the songs are based on Psalm 103. You may wish to consider having your soloist or ensemble sing a stanza on one of the longer hymns as a time for the congregation's reflection.
  2. The prelude music is renamed to reflect the hymn text associated with Psalm 103. The actual title of the piece is "Canonic Variations on 'With High Delight' ". It is arranged by Raymond H. Haan and published by Concordia 97-6167 [1992] (E-M). Each variation incorporates a canon - sometimes between the hands, sometimes between the pedal line and the hands.
  3. The introit "We Come with Joyful Hearts" by Michael Bedford is a unison/two part anthem published by Coronet Press 392-41319 [1984] (Easy for adults, Medium difficulty for youth).
  4. The music of the offertory is a song "sandwich". The choir that sings the introit may surround the "meat" of the hymn text of "What Shall I Render to the Lord" with the Taizé refrain "Bless the Lord, My Soul". Both of these are versifications of Psalm 103 and they are in compatible keys.
  5. The postlude music can be found in "Praise and Thanksgiving set 5" by Michael Burkhardt and published by Morningstar MSM-10-755 [1993] (E-M).

Liturgy Notes:

1. Perhaps the structuring of a worship service in this manner will be new to you and your congregation. If so, you may want to take time at the beginning to explain the format and encourage them to look at the entire service before it starts. It can be a good change of pace, and a way to deal more meaningfully with a passage such as Psalm 103. The other benefit is an opportunity to more intentionally and visually communicate that worship is a dialogue with God. In a service like this it is obvious when God speaks through his word and when we respond to that word. If you decide to try this structure, select a group of thoughtful worshipers, or your Worship Committee, or elders, to evaluate it.

2. The entire text of Psalm 103 is read in five sections. There are multiple ways to provide those readings. Either the pastor or a lay person may serve as reader, or several lay persons can take sections of it. The boldfaced print is for the entire congregation. You may wish to restructure the responsive sections of the reading differently than is provided here.

3. Notice that the offering is taken while the congregation sings. Aid them in noting that the songs speak about the spirit and motive of our giving.

4. We encourage that the Prayers of the People, in three parts, be led by three different members of the congregation. Select persons who seem best able to articulate the joys and concerns in each of the three areas. If you wish, the three prayers can be divided by a response, either spoken or sung, by the congregation.

5. Many generations of Christians have found that the profession included in Psalm 103 is a very fitting response to their participation in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Such a profession forms the conclusion of the sacrament. Sometimes the liturgist reads it; other times the congregation reads it in unison; or it can be rewritten as a responsive litany. Or you may want to sing a formulation of it. You may want to consider including the Lord's Supper in this service.

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