Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sing A New Song

Today is the fourth day in our 49th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Nehemiah 4-6; Revelation 6; Psalm 98.  

When I was interviewing at Bethel, someone asked me what kind of music I prefer in church.  I told them that I grew up with those old hymns like "The Old Rugged Cross," "Amazing Grace," and "Victory in Jesus," and they really hit a chord in my soul.  I also grew up visiting churches that preferred choruses that were more contemporary.  In the 1980s it was songs like "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High," "Sanctuary," and "I Love You, Lord" that stirred my soul.  My piano teacher insisted on teaching me classical music, and my church's choir director underscored this love of the "high church" musical tradition.  Then we would turn around and visit the Gospel Chicken House a few miles away from my home, where we'd hear old gospel singers give rousing renditions of "I'll Fly Away," and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."  In addition to these, I've always had a love of Celtic music.  With the advent of Pandora, I've discovered a slew of musical styles that I never would have been exposed to otherwise.  For example, who knew I'd end up liking Ska?  

So, which music do I prefer in church?  Any music that glorifies God, and is sung with the heart and soul.  Which music do I disdain in church?  Any music that's become so old-hat that it loses its meaning.  You can sing old songs in fresh, new ways that infuse them with new meaning.  On the other hand, you can sing new songs without feeling.  Just because music is "contemporary," that doesn't make it relevant.  What makes music relevant is that you sing it with feeling.  

The author of Psalm 98 calls God's people to worship with energy and enthusiasm:

Sing a new song to the Lord!
    He has worked miracles,
and with his own powerful arm,
    he has won the victory.
The Lord has shown the nations
    that he has the power to save
    and to bring justice.
God has been faithful
    in his love for Israel,
    and his saving power is seen
    everywhere on earth.

Tell everyone on this earth
    to sing happy songs
    in praise of the Lord.
Make music for him on harps.
    Play beautiful melodies!
Sound the trumpets and horns
and celebrate with joyful songs
    for our Lord and King!

Command the ocean to roar
    with all of its creatures,
    and the earth to shout
    with all of its people.
Order the rivers
    to clap their hands,
    and all of the hills
    to sing together.
Let them worship the Lord!
He is coming to judge
    everyone on the earth,
    and he will be honest
    and fair.

This ancient psalm evokes feelings of urgent praise.  The first stanza uses forms of the word "power" three times, declaring God's might and salvation.  The second stanza calls worshipers to happy celebration with joyful song.  The third stanza commands all creation to worship God along with His people.  This psalm is thousands of years old, yet it awakes new feelings in the reader, refreshing the spirit and inviting fresh and original expressions of worship.

Today, why not do as the psalmist says, and sing a new song to the Lord?  You don't have to be a poet or composer to write your own song to God.  All you need is heart.  It doesn't have to be a song that anyone else ever sees, or even one that you ever sing out loud.  Song writing engages a dimension of your spirit that we all too often ignore.  I invite you to compose your own song or psalm today--and watch your creativity blossom.  And just to show you it can be done, I'll take a whack at it myself:


As a child, I run
  Fall down and skin my knee
  Crying through the pain
  Papa, comfort me
  Wipe away my tears
  Hold me on your knee
  Papa, pick me up
  Papa, comfort me

  As a man, I run
  I cannot keep the pace
 Papa, take my hand
  I've fallen on my face
 Wipe away my tears
  Save me from my disgrace
  Papa, pick me up
  And help me run this race

  Now I no longer run
 There's pain each step I make
 Papa, hold my hands
 As they begin to shake
  You said you'd make me new
  In the morning, when I wake
  Papa, pick me up
  I pray the Lord my soul to take

Through the sorrow and the tears
You give blessing through these years
Papa hears me when I call
Papa loves me best of all!

  In the morning, when I rise
  I will run to your embrace
  And You will keep me safe
  Every sin you will erase
  And you'll wipe away each tear
  Take me to Your holy place
Papa, pick me up
  Give me Your amazing grace

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