“Let us Sing a New Song”
Psalm 149: 1-5, September 6th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Let us open our ears as we listen to these words from the Old Testament, Psalm one hundred & forty-nine, verses one thru five.”
1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
2 Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.
5 Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches.
“Having listened to the words of the psalmist let us now open our hearts to the hope God offers us today!”
“Let us Sing a New Song”
Who shall sing? We shall sing! We shall fill the chambers of Heaven with our joyous songs of praise! Today, we shall sing; we shall sing from our hearts so loud that the heavens will rejoice with us! The psalmist reaches across the ages to awaken our spirits! The psalmist speaks to you and he speaks to me, we the faithful! These writings are for humble, faithful, folks like you and me! The psalmist tells us faithful folks to exult in glory, and to sing for joy! /Psalm 149:5/ We are even encouraged “to praise the name of God with dancing, making melody, to God, with tambourine and lyre!” /Psalm 149:3/ This is the new song, the new melody, the new tune we are encouraged to adjust ourselves to! Are we confused by this upbeat, cheerful, and optimistic writing? It is reasonable that we be a bit cautious, skeptical even. Here we are in a time of worship together, and we are still encouraged to refrain from singing out loud, here in this sanctuary, because of the acute danger of this COVID-19 virus! Were there not dangers back in the time of the Psalmist? Of course – there were! Yet, the psalmist still spoke to the people encouraging them to be of good spirits – simply because God is on our side! The words of the psalmist are meant to put images of jubilant joy in our hearts! God hears our voices even when we are silenced! God knows when we are offering up praise and adoration for the privilege of life itself! Thank you, God! Thank you for all of Creation!
When shall we begin all this rejoicing? We first must be convinced that there is something to sing about! When we are victorious, we shall sing! Yes! Yes, indeed, we shall! Now let us take a moment to first reflect on all the reasons we may want to feel a renewal in and of our humility, since the psalmist tells us that “victory comes with humility.”: /Psalm 149:4 adapted/ Humility comes from recognizing where our strength comes from. Look to any great competitor, sportsperson, or team member. When they take their God given talents, attributes, and abilities and apply them diligently, they often advance and do well in that which they put their hearts and minds around. Yet, when these same people begin to believe that they have accomplished this entirely on their own merit, giving no thanks to their team, their sponsors nor God, watch them as their over blown ego’s bring them down to right size. In their humbled state, they may become willing to humbly concede, they need God, they need their teammates, their coaches and their sponsors, and their fans… their supporters! Talent is something we are given. Humility is when we give credit where credit is due. When we do this, heaven will bring out the band and invite us to sing from our hearts!
What are the things which you hold dear and are truly thankful for? One of my spiritual advisors, over the years, had me make a list of all my abilities, talents, and such, then told me to write about where they came from. He wanted me to begin by acknowledging the educator that taught me about how to develop good study habits. He encouraged me to consider who and how many folks took time to teach me, train me how to write a composition, how to preach a sermon, and write a short story. What about the tutors that helped me become a better reader, learning the skills necessary for collecting and grasping the main themes of any reading, whether it be a novel or a history book! It was suggested, as a discipline, that I start a list, a list of things I was grateful for. This exercise ought to be done in present time. As an example, make a list of things you are currently grateful for. These words of wisdom come from those who have counseled me and you over our lifetime. If you are struggling with starting your own gratitude list perhaps you need to make a few changes. Watch less television or play fewer video games and make more time for looking outside at the beauty of Mother Nature’s Creation all around you! God surely wants you to see the beautiful of the sun rising-up each morning. Get up early, go outside and look to the East! Once the sun has risen you will have witnessed a true miracle of nature! The closer you get to the ocean or the waterway, lake, or pond, the sight is even more spectacular. At sunset watch the western horizon. It is never the same every moment the colors shift and change. Let the images reawaken that creative energy within yourself. Do this every day and your whole outlook on life will shift. Expand this experience by looking for Creations beauty throughout your day. If you are but willing you shall see things in a new light. Do not allow yourself to complain that it is too hot or humid outside, rather look to the warm moisture that lubricates and recreates everything about you and your surroundings, while nourishing the beauty of Creation itself!
Life is what you make of it.
With the right attitude even a seemingly harsh storm, can looks like a ‘spectacular display – a light show even,’ to someone somewhere. When the winds blow and changes the landscape, be reminded of the power of Creation, God’s Creation; be reminded how quickly everything can be changed! You and I are not in control. No, power comes from the Spiritual Realm, beyond our grasp. Why is this important? Because we, you, and me, we need to get a new perspective of where we are and what are roles are in this world, this world in which we live in. Six months ago, humankind seemed to think the world was under their control. Today, for millions, life has become harsh and for others it is simply exasperating. Yet, the world still is. Creation is still all around us and the basic realities of life have not shifted! We have simply been reminded that this is the Creators world and we are but welcome guests! We must find a new song if we are to journey joyfully into our tomorrows!
Where do we start and how do we make such a transformation? The psalmist is telling us we must dig down deep; get grateful for what we do have. Things like: life, liberty, and the privilege to pursue happiness! Gee that sounds familiar doesn’t it!? The psalmist was telling the down cast, the oppressed and down trodden that they, that we need to start by being humble enough to realize God is in charge; and we need to praise our God for the gift of life, the gifts of all that we as individuals and as a people have been given and still have! How can we make such a shift? That is a great question! If you are truly asking yourself this and sincerely want the answer than perhaps you will listen to the ancient words of wisdom written by the psalmist! How, you ask? It takes discipline! Trusting God in all areas of our lives – that takes discipline. Read from the Ancient Book of Exodus, chapter twelve, verse thirteen, when it speaks of the Passover: “I will Pass Over you.” Moses, speaking for God, instructs the people to do certain rituals and the plaque, which would come to be, would “Pass Over” them, if they followed his instructions – then they would be saved. Who is our Moses in this time in history? You will need to make that judgement for yourself! Start with prayer… asking God for guidance. Speak to your Spiritual Advisor if you need guidance. If you do not have a Spiritual Advisor, talk to your pastor. Talk to me or someone like me. A Spiritual Advisor in this context is someone who will counsel you on how to have a closer relationship with the Divine, The God which Moses met at the ‘Burning Bush’ as he went to the Mount of Sinai.
There are consequences for not following common guides of spiritual discipline. “We must stay fully awake to the consequences of our actions.” A phrase that is used in the circle of psychologist and self-help books and programs around the world! A phrase which is ignored by millions, we fear! In the New Testament the Apostle Paul reminds the church in Rome, as he quotes Jesus, concluding with Jesus’ summation of the greatest commandments: “Love your neighbor as yourself” /adapted Romans 13:9d/ His words coincide with other quotes from the mouth of Jesus as contained in the gospel of Matthew, chapter eighteen, verse twenty. “For when two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Clearly, Jesus was also teaching that we must work together and support each other in our journeys of faith. Let us work toward agreement. We all know the old saying: “United we stand but divided we fall.” Let us strive to seek out opportunities to come together. Let us seek solutions even as it seems there are none to be had. We all know the truth; as it was also true during the time-period which caused the words of the psalmist to be so healing and helpful, to a struggling society. It is still true. Conflict in and at every level of our society is very real… thus we must deal with it. Let us come together in support of the greater good!
In verse nine, just a few verses beyond today’s reading, which I did not ask our worship leader to read, verse nine holds our enemies accountable for their actions. Listen now to the Psalmist in verse nine of Psalm one hundred and forty-nine: “To execute on them the judgment decreed.” /Psalm 149:9a/ The Psalmist is telling the people, telling us that those who do not follow in the teachings and the will of God shall be judged! Again, the psalmist reminds us, we are to remember that when judgement comes, whether it be here and now; or later there and then, it shall bring triumph to those who stay faithful to the disciplines of faithfulness. “This is glory for all his faithful ones. Praise the Lord!” /Psalm 149:9b/ Even the Psalmist was saying that those who do not walk the walk of the faithful; they shall be judged by the Lord our God! Therefore, let us not be shy about our praise and adoration for our God of Justice and our God of Mercy! Even with our lips closed and our faces covered in cloth, out of concern for our neighbors safety and health, we can and we shall sing from our hearts our joy and admiration for the fullness of God’s steadfast love – for us faithful ones! Let us clap our hands and dance with jubilant joy!