God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sing a New Song: A sermon on Psalm 98

O sing to the Holy One a new song,
for God has done marvelous things.
God's right hand and God's holy arm have gotten the victory.
2The Holy One has made known the victory;
God has revealed God's vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 God has remembered God's steadfast love
and faithfulness to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
4Make a joyful noise to the Holy One, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5Sing praises to the Holy One with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Holy One.
7Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
8Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
9at the presence of the Holy One,
for God is coming to judge the earth.
God will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
      As I was reading blogs online this week, one of the pastors wrote about a conversation he had with his colleague about  a way to see is a person was growing in their faith, was to ask the, "What was the last song that they had learned on their faith and how long ago was that?"
      This got me thinking about music and how it impacts our life of faith.  Do the songs we sing and the one's that are planted on our hearts tell about our relationship to God? So I started thinking about my faith journey in terms of song.  
       My first memory of church is Christmas Eve.  I remember the candles being lit and holding it so carefully and listening to everyone singing Silent Night. The magic of that moment is a magic I have experience every year since.  To hear those words of stillness, and quiet, of a mother's love and a child's new birth.  This is Christmas for me the list of the world coming back to earth again and again.  

     My next step on my musical faith journey happens when I am in grade school.  As the PK (preacher's kid), I was always called on to be the kind one.  So in the kid choir at church there was a kid with down's syndrome and no one wanted to be near him.  But he taught me something very important about singing. He sang loudly and exuberantly off key, seriously off key.  And it was tough to sing next to him because you had to find the music inside in order to sing the melody.  Eric taught me a lot, lessons I didn't always want to learn, but he showed me how to make a joyful noise to the Holy One.
     When I was in high school I went to NYE or RYE (Youth Events).  At one of the them the song that was being sung was 
This was 30 years ago, when I learned that we as a church stand up for justice, made up of all people: young and old, gay and straight, many colored.  This really impacted how I experienced the church.  The United Church of Christ showed me that God's diverse world is full of amazing people who are called to sing and march, be angry and love the world into God's reign.  
     My next growth in faith happened in College.  I went to Loyola University in Chicago.  They changed the way I thought about worship music.  I gew up in churches that played worship music exclusively on the organ.  I have heard good organ music, slow organ music - so slow you think that 4 verses is twenty, fast organ music - where you can't get the words our, soaring organ music, and circus organ music.  And so when I went to worship, I was struck by the beauty of the chapel and what I heard.  There was no organ!!!  Guitars, drums, flute, cello, violin, tambourines.  Music came a love for me.  I experienced as beautiful.  Ironically, one of the songs I saved from those worship service contained some of the lyrics of Psalm 98.
I experienced worship music and beautiful and powerful.  
     My next stop is graduate school at the University of Connecticut.  I attended worship with my Grandmother, sitting in Uncle Bill's pew behind Grandpas pew.  But what spoke to me of this time with my extended family was our family reunion.  Every August the family gathered and sang "We Limit Not the Truth of God."   
These Manning Robinson ancestors of John Robinson the Pilgrim Pastor gather in an old Congregational Church to sing this tune.  There is Yet more Truth and Light to Break Forth From God's Word.  These words speak to my family, to me, that when we walk with God there is more light we need to find, more truth we need to discover.  God's word is alive and present to teach us today and always.  
    Then picture me a new mom with a collicky baby.  He cried a lot.  He cried an awful lot.  I thought I would be a cool mom and sing him the Beatles, but do you know how short Golden Slumbers is.  So the one song I found that soothed his souls was Amazing Grace.  Screaming his lungs out, five verses later of Amazing Grace and calm has entered the house.  Screaming his lungs out on a plane trip to see grandma and grandpa and singing Amazing grace calms him and the people around me.  I wonder what that does for a child to be bathed in that song multiple times a day for a couple of years.  To hear of God's love, God's grace.  To hear that God will always be there for you and with you.  

And now, what is my new song to God.  For the last ten years the songs that have meant the most to me are not Germon Beer Songs, but Scottish Tunes.  My thought of singing the faith and how to sing have been the songs of John Bell and the Iona Community.  These songs speak to me of a the Gospel where Jesus welcomes the poor, finds the lost, welcomes the outcast and invited you to participate.  The latest song to be part of my prayer walk has been "Come Bring Your Burdens to God."   
As my dog and I go on our prayer walk, this song has been my guide and inspiration.  As I have been working through jobs questions this song has been with me.  And while I am not sure that Jesus will never say no, for I feel like I get an awful lot of nos.  This song centers me.  
    So what song are you singing on your faith journey.  What new song are you singing together to God.  For singing in church is both beautiful, powerful, and a landmind.  For one person's favorite song is not moving to the other person in the pew.  But God calls us to make a joyful noise, to sing a new song.  And what is noise and what is beauty is different for each of us.  As Marva Dawn writes, "a congregation has to love each othere enough to sing each other's songs."   Will you find your neighbors song, the one who is here and the one not yet here.  Will you find the song to guide you.  As a church we are invited to sing a new song, a song of this wonderful God who invited to bring light into the dark places, to bring hope where life seems hopeless, to bring justice where there is oppression.  So Sing a New Song Unto the Lord.
Preached 11/17/13 at First Congregational UCC in Elkhorn, WI.