Sorry my sermon is a few days late! I would say that things have been crazy around here (which they have been), but I feel like I’m just a broken record! One of these days I’ll get myself organized.
Here you go!
To Sing A New Song
O sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Today’s psalm seems fitting this morning, during a worship service where we welcome a new Music Director to our congregation.
These past couple of months, I think we have all realized that having a Music Director means more than simply having someone show up on Sunday morning to conduct the choir and play the piano and organ during worship. Having a Music Director means having someone who oversees our music ministry, leads us in a crucial element of our worship service and helps us to live out the call of this psalm, the call to sing to the LORD.
Historically, this psalm was used at the celebration of the New Year. The Hebrew people would come together in worship; they would renew their covenant together and celebrate the presence of God in their lives.
Hear a reflection on the historical usage of this psalm from the Rev. Daniel Geslin, a UCC pastor in Colorado:
Imagine pilgrims coming in all directions from the twelve tribes and assembling a temple in Jerusalem. By celebrating the identity of their God, they simultaneously celebrate their own identity as a covenant people. The poetry of the psalm perfectly blends the God of creation and the God of history.
“By celebrating the identity of their God, they simultaneously celebrate their own identity as a covenant people.”
Music in the church helps us to celebrate our identity. It helps us to define who we are, both as individuals and as a community of faith. It helps us to define who were, who we are and who we may become. It helps us dictate emotions when we cannot find words to speak. It allows us to put aside our differences and be united through notes, rhythms and words. Music tears down barriers between generations and traditions. It finds and strengthens the pulse of a community.
Music is a gift. We do not just sing in worship because that it what we are supposed to do. We sing in worship because we are called, through scripture, to “sing to the Lord”; to praise God for the many blessings in our lives, to cry out to God in those moments of fear and sadness and to be united with our brothers and sisters around the world through music. We sing in worship because the psalm calls us to “sing to the LORD, [to] bless his name” (v. 2), to “ascribe to the LORD” (v. 7&8), to “worship the LORD in holy splendor” (v. 9) and to “say among the nations, ‘The LORD is king!’” (v. 10). We sing in worship because music invokes emotions and draws us closer to God. We sing in worship because music connects us to the generations that have come before us – and the generations that are still to come.
Rev. Geslin went on to say, “The poetry of the psalm perfectly blends the God of creation and the God of history.” Isn’t that what we are trying to do within our church community right now? Blend the God of creation and the God of history? Don’t we try, week after week, to be true to who we are and who God is calling us to be, while still finding a way to honor and respect the traditions of this church and of the Christian Church around the world?
Music actually creates the perfect example of how sometimes it is difficult to blend the God of creation and the God of history. My grandmother, who was a very accomplished musician, used to always say to me, “That ‘stuff’ your generation listens to these days – that’s not music.”
We are told to “sing to the LORD a new song” – but sometimes there are growing pains that come with that new song. Change is not always easy – in fact, it has been my experience that change is almost never easy. We tend to resist change because it is scary and makes us uncomfortable. We like the safety of the known and dread the vulnerability of the unknown. We are often scared that the decisions we are making may impact the future in a negative way. And we would rather guard against that fear by keeping things the way they have always been.
As we worked through the Music Director transition, I thought about all of the other transitions this church has experienced over the past few years. Staff turnover has included a new Senior Pastor, Church School Director, Youth Fellowship Director, Office Administrator and Music Director. The Rehoboth Post Office stopped issuing bulk mailings, forcing us to move to an email-based newsletter system and utilize social media in new ways. We have experimented with new and shifted around our old Christian Education curriculum. We have added new programs and eliminated some old ones. We have made changes to our worship services, bringing in new and different visual, liturgical and musical elements. New faces have come through our doors and joined our community. Today, this church does not look the same way that it did a few years ago.
And that is okay.
Sometimes we fear change because we do not know what is going to come next. But listen to what this psalm says:
Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
The world is firmly established. God created the world and empowered us, as human beings, to live in it and have dominion over the rest of creation. Christ redeemed us, creating the Church and again empowering us, as human beings, to be ministers throughout the world. And the Holy Spirit exists within each and every one of us, sustaining us, strengthening us and – yes! – empowering us to live out the lives we have been called into.
Yes, things may change, yes, we may not always make the right decisions and yes, we may look back on certain things and wish we had handled them differently, but always remember the words of this blessed psalm, “The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.” We are firmly rooted in a foundation that God created for us. And as we travel through this crazy journey through life and ministry, we are never alone.
But we have to move forward.
We have to sing a new song.
We have to honor both the God of history and the God of creation.
We have to tear down the walls that threaten to divide us and – like the Hebrew people did so many years ago – celebrate the covenant that binds us together. We have to feel ourselves united by the waters of baptism and come together to worship, sing, serve, learn and share a holy meal.
As we prepare to sing our own new song at the Rehoboth Congregational Church, let us share a faith like the one displayed by the centurion in this morning’s Gospel reading. Let us be courageous as we journey forward, both in our words and in our steps. Let us not be afraid to take risks and admit our failures. Let us be honest with ourselves and with the people around us. Let us celebrate who we are – and who we may become.
Let us embody the Body of Christ.
Let us sing a new song.
Let us be the Rehoboth Congregational Church.
Thanks be to God!