April 28

April 28
By Pastor Judy
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!  Psalm 98:1a

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was a nonconformist preacher in England.  For 150 years, the Church of England was bound by law to use hymns only from 2 approved hymnbooks.  Following  strict rules set down by John Calvin, only Psalm-based songs were allowed – thus, the Christian church was not allowed to use the name of Jesus in its worship songs!  As a young man, Isaac grew tired of the old hymns and its restrictions.  Complaining to his father (a pastor) on the way home from church one day, his father grew exasperated.  “Then you write some!”

So he did – 750 of them, by the time he died.  And his talent/faith/prolific output changed hymnody forever.  We still sing many of them today, including “Joy to the World,”  “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun,” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

“Sing to the Lord a new song!” cries the Psalmist.  “For he has done marvelous things.”

When we were in Africa, this command was taken literally.  On Cantate Domino Sunday (“Sing to the Lord”), there were choir fests that would rival soccer competitions.  Congregational choirs would practice for months in advance, and would invite neighboring choirs to participate, bringing their best songs.  Everybody came; it was a highlight of the year.  On that Sunday afternoon, there would be informal concerts that went on for hours, as each choir presented a number of songs that would range from Bach to standard hymns to traditional African songs (now Christianized), to new African music.  It was joyous.  It was fun.  People danced and sang.  It was a celebration of music and faith.

“Sing to the Lord a new song!”  We cry it out today as well.  God is still doing marvelous things, and as Christians, we name the name of Jesus in our songs of praise.  We sing old songs – as if they were new, for we are grasped by a living faith.  We sing new songs, for the creativity born in us by the Great Creator demands it.  We sing old songs in new ways, with new rhythms, harmonies and instruments. And we sing new songs in old ways, using organ and trumpet and instruments that have existed for centuries.  The possibilities for praising God through song are literally endless.

Luther once said that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise,” and that the gift of music is best used “when returned in service to God.”   As Lutherans, we carry a high view of music and its role in worship.

So sing out to the Lord a new song today!  For he has done marvelous things.  What has he done for you today?  Praise him!  And share your praise with someone else.  Because… isn’t that the nature of song?

Singing with you,
Pastor Judy

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