What Shall I Render?
The Rev. Jason R. Grote
I can say with most certainty that we have all been in a position of buying a birthday or Christmas gift for someone. I believe that this is probably one of the more difficult tasks with which we are faced. We often roam the aisles of stores racking our brains trying to figure out what would be the perfect gift. The question often running through our mind is, "What can I afford? What can I buy that is within my financial capability and also something that will be a delight to the other person?" With a dozen people to buy gifts for, I find myself faced with that dilemma every Christmas. And to make matters worse, for that special person in your life you are confronted with the desire to buy something special that will express your appreciation and thankfulness for all the things that they give to you on a daily basis.
What gift will be so special that it will convey your recognition of and thankfulness for the clean laundry that always seemed to be in the closet? Or for the meals that were waiting for you when you came home from work? Or for the clean house that you could relax in? Or the freshly cut lawn that made your house look beautiful to your neighbors? Or for the monies earned that provided for your nourishment? Or for your children that made many days and evenings a true joy? Or for the many laughs and smiles you’ve had? Or for the many tears that were shared with each other because of the openness and oneness you have with each other? What could you possibly buy or give that would say ‘thank-you’ for all these things? It’s not always easy coming up with that answer.
Likewise, we may find ourselves in a similar dilemma when we consider God. Many people in today’s world don’t consider giving God a gift. At most they only want to say a simple ‘thank-you’ and end it there. Yet it is ironic because they want and even expect wonderful and lavish gifts for some of the things that they have done for others. If they were to receive nothing or a simple ‘thank-you’ they would be filled with bitterness and feel unappreciated. But the question remains, what do we give to God for everything He does?
It is a tough question. What could we give to God, to the One who is complete within Himself, to the one who provides everything and doesn’t need anything, to the one who regards not the material things of this world? Our psalmist found himself pondering this very question. He writes in verse 12 of Psalm of 116, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”
The psalmist recognizes from the very beginning all that the Lord has done. He enumerates these things in verses 1 through 11. He says in verses 1 & 2 that God “hath heard his voice and his supplications and that God hath inclined his ear unto him”. The psalmist is able to make his complaints known to God. He is able to pray to God and to communicate that which is in his heart. He knows that He has a God to whom all things are important and that God will not only hear his petitions but will answer them in the best possible way.
He writes in verses 5 & 6 that God is righteous and merciful and that the Lord preserves the simple. Again, the psalmist is fully aware that God will do that which is right and, moreso, He will also spare him from that which is deserved. Despite what the world brings his way, despite the circumstances of his life, he knows that God will see him through it and preserve him.
And in verses 7 & 8, he writes, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.” The psalmist finds complete rest and relaxation in the sovereignty and providence of God. He has no despair or worries about the future for in God is all provision and rest. With God the world, the flesh, or the devil cannot overtake the security and comfort that He provides.
And it is with this in mind that the Psalmist asks the question in verse 12, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” What could be given that would express his thankfulness for the provision, security, protection, mercy, and righteousness that God bestows upon him? Well, the psalmist answers this question in verse 13, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” The answer to his question-- the answer as to what he can return unto to the Lord is this-- WORSHIP!!!
And to further elaborate and define his answer he writes in verses 17 to 19, “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.”
First the psalmist says, “I will receive the cup of salvation.” In other words, the psalmists says that he will receive the blessing of salvation from God. He will not refuse the greatest gift that God has to offer to him-- the gift of salvation. While this psalm was written before Christ the promise of salvation had been given. And to the psalmist this promise was a promise that would be fulfilled. Of all the various blessings in this world, of all the provisions this was the most important. For salvation is a blessing that is eternal. It is a blessing that provides eternal rest. It provides cleansing and purity. It restores the soul.
And although the Eucharist was not instituted at the time, for us the Holy Communion symbolizes this cup of salvation. By partaking of it we are purified and our souls are cleansed. By consuming the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist we are made aware that we are the covenant people of God and we are assured of our salvation and eternal rest in God. It is for this reason of constant nourishment and assurance that we celebrate and renew our covenant relationship with God in the weekly Eucharist.
Furthermore, the psalmist says that he will call upon the name of the Lord. To call upon the name of the Lord is not simply to pray. It is to worship God fully with our hearts, souls, and minds. And the psalmist expresses two important features to worship. When we look at verse 14 and verse 18 we see the first aspect of worship - “I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.”
Note that worship is not individualistic. We, as the people of God, are part of a covenant nation. We are individuals that make up the body of Christ. We are many that form one. And, therefore, we cannot separate ourselves from one another. Now don’t get me wrong. Each one of us has an individual and personal relationship with God and each of us can praise God and communicate to God through prayer in our own individual way and on our own individual time. But that doesn’t replace the corporate worship that we have on Sunday morning when we all come together as one people to praise and worship God.
This corporate worship is not left up to our own individual tastes and preferences either. The psalmist continues in verse 19 by saying, “In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.” The Psalmist is telling us where worship occurs. And by telling us this he is defining for us what corporate worship is to be like.
“In the courts of the Lord’s house”. This is where worship occurs. We often use the term “Lord’s house” in place of the word Church. But this phrase does not mean that it is simply within the walls of each individual church building. It doesn’t apply to the buildings of Holy Trinity or St. Matthias. When the Psalmist says that he will worship in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem, he means that he will worship in the heavenly Jerusalem - in the heavenly sanctuary where all the saints gather around the throne of God in majestic worship.
Our communion service places this before us plainly each week when we celebrate Holy Communion. We are all familiar with the words of the Sursum Corda. “Lift up your hearts”, “We lift them up unto the Lord”, “Let us give thanks unto our Lord God”, “It is meet and right so to do”, “It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God…… Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying..” and this is followed by the Sanctus.
Now it is evident that we are not physically transported into the heavens. Each of us is still sitting in a pew in Katy and each worshipper at Holy Trinity is sitting in their pew in Houston. But every worshipper’s heart and mind is spiritually ascended into the courts of the Heavenly Temple where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
And as such, if our worship occurs in the heavenly throne room, our earthly sanctuaries and worship are to aid us in this true worship. All that we say, all that we do, all that we see is to reflect the heavenly pattern of worship. Archbishop Cranmer, the original author of the Prayer Book, understood this in the language that he used.
Many say that the language of the Prayer Book is antiquated and that it is the common language of the 1500’s. But this is not true. The language that was used by Cranmer in the Prayer Book was not the common language of the time. It was the legal language and the language that was used before royalty. It was used in the Prayer Book because Cranmer understood that we were approaching the most Awesome God-- the God that deserves the utmost respect.
Furthermore, the pattern and beauty of our worship is purposeful. Have you ever wondered why it is that sanctuaries and cathedrals are made so elaborate and decorative? Why we have crosses, candles, stain glass windows, fine white linen robes? Why we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and so on?
These things are representations of the heavenly sanctuary and worship. The writer of Hebrews tells us that the tabernacle and the temple and all the things therein were copies of the heavenly things. The candlesticks, the incense, the table of Showbread, and the list can go on. God prescribed them and He has said that they are copies of the Heavenly things.
We do not have our Churches’ and our worship patterned after man’s own sense of appeal but, rather, our worship is pattered according to God’s pattern. All of these things aid us in lifting up our hearts and our minds to Heaven as we enter into the worship of Almighty God.
And when we enter into this worship of Almighty God our attitude must be one of reverence, one of awe, one of humbleness, one of thankfulness, one of glorification, and one of unworthiness. And these attitudes must be shown through our outward and physical actions. Without a real and outward expression worship is not true worship.This heavenly worship is what the psalmist saw as the sacrifice of thanksgiving. This heavenly worship is what the psalmist knew was the only acceptable response to God.
When we recognize all that God has done for us, when we realize all the provisions that come from the hands of God, when we experience the rest that God offers to us, when we ask the question - “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”… We should answer with the psalmist:
I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the Name
of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his
people, In the courts of the Lords house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.
Praise ye the Lord.” Amen