Psalm 98

1O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.

            The Lord’s right hand and holy arm have been victorious.

2The Lord has made known this victory;

            The Lord has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

3The Lord has remembered his 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 Lord, all the earth;

            break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

5Sing praises to the Lord 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 Lord.

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 Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth.

            He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

 

This is our appointed Psalm for the upcoming Sunday, and it is oddly appropriate for all the events of this week.  The reactions about yesterday’s vote cover the gamut, even within this congregation.   Some are elated.  Some are proud and feel justified.  Others are shocked.  Some are sad, angry, and betrayed.  Some are just glad the whole campaign season is over.  Some probably feel all of the above at the same time.

Everyone agrees that as a nation, we are not singing the same song we were on Monday.  It is a new song, for a new day.  We have different opinions about whether this is good or bad, but everybody agrees that it is true.  As Christians we are called to sing this new song to the Lord.  We are called to remember the victory of God’s steadfast love, and the righteous and equitable judgment which comes on the day of the Lord.  This judgment, of course, is that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3), and that the sentence is forgiveness through the resurrection of Christ.  At this, the whole earth and all of its peoples shout for joy!

Yet in our days, we only see this as through a mirror dimly.  It would be easy to sing a song against our neighbor – perhaps even unknowingly.  If you are one who is hurt, it would be easy to question the steadfast love of God.  If you are one who is joyous, it would be easy to decide God is using your right hand instead of God’s own.  It is faithful to stand with those whom we disagree, to make sure we sing together, standing side by side, and work out the harmonies so that we may all see and hear and know God’s joy within and among us – but this is not always easy.  The Holy Spirit gives us a new song, which somehow fits together in all of its diversity, because it comes from the love of God.  Yet, this song can take some practice and diligence to sing.

When Isaac Watts set out to turn this Psalm into a hymn congregations would like to sing, he probably didn’t know that he was writing what would become one of the most beloved Christmas carols of all time – Joy to the Word.

And yet, what is embodied by this Psalm, and the hymn it inspired, is the Joy which lives in the people of Christ because they have known the good news of Jesus!  To have joy beyond all understanding, regardless of the circumstance, knowing that Christ has died to bring even death into the life of God, so that nothing may ever separate us from the sustaining love of the Trinity – this is one of the features of being filled with God’s love.

So here is my challenge for any who care to receive it in this already challenging week.  Sing Joy to the World – but don’t sing it for yourself.  Don’t even sing it with somebody whom you disagree.  Both of those are good things to do, but take it one step farther and sing it on the behalf of somebody who is fundamentally in a different place than you this day, as if you were them.  Our approximations of this will never be perfect, but we can try.  What would it take to sing Joy to the World if you cannot hardly raise your voice to speak today?  What would it take to sing if you were oblivious to both the pain and the joy in the world today because of  your excitement and sense of the world being set straight?  What would it take to sing if you think the nation was caught between poor choices, and now your heart breaks at the division you see?

And, this isn’t just an exercise to see things from a different point of view.  It is an exercise to love our enemies, to expand our hearts in to the space of Christ’s heart, and to truly understand what it means to be in the communion of God’s love.  Ask for God’s help, Christ’s eyes and ears and heart, to guide you in your singing.

But most of all, may you hear the tune of God’s love for you, and God’s joy about you, in your heart.  May this fill you, bring your eyes to see true hope, and give you a new song to the Lord – a song which you cannot help but share with the world.  Amen!