Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sermon for Feb 24, 2013; Psalm 98

Rev. George Miller
Psalm 98
“Clap hands and Sing”
Feb 24, 2013

Today is Choir Recognition Sunday which means that as we journey with Jesus on his way to the cross, we pause to give thanks to God for the musical gifts we have been blessed with.

Today we celebrate the gift of music; today we celebrate the gifts of our musicians; today we celebrate our choirs, our organist, our Minister of Music. Today we celebrate God for giving us music in the first place.

Music which makes the soul want to clap hands and sing; music which says what the heart feels and what spoken words can not.

Perhaps no better scripture for today is Psalm 98. If it sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the inspiration for “Joy to the World” and it was the reading used to celebrate the life of our beloved Phil Weber.

Psalm 98 is a song that asks us to remember what God has already done, to anticipate what God will accomplish and to spend the moment, this moment, in the here and now, singing songs, offering praise and being joyful.

With its references to lyre and trumpet, horn and victory, it sounds like an invitation to be part of a parade

But not a local parade for just the town folk, or a national parade for all the folks, but a global parade involving all of creation, with seas that roar, hills that sing and floods that clap hands.

(If this was set in Sebring, I’m sure we’d invite the cows to moo, sand hill cranes to trill and snowbirds to chirp along.)

Music, clearly, is a proper response to God’s goodness and glory.

Last week we heard about the temptation of Jesus. We did not talk about specific temptations; it was purposely left undefined so each person could think about their own.

During the week, I’ve wondered what temptation is. The conclusion I came to was that temptation is anything that pulls us away from God and from being in a true relationship with one another.

Temptation is that thing which gets in the way of us being able to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with the Lord.

To use a metaphor, it’s like we are participants of a parade and temptation is anything which distracts us, causes us to fall out of step, and feel lost along the way.

If we use this analogy, what then is a purpose of music? I’d like to say it’s that which bring us back in step, back with others, and back with God, before the parade passes by.

There’s all kind of music, all kinds of songs. Think of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” which asks one to look at the world with clearer eyes.

Music like “Over the Rainbow” which speaks of longing of the soul. A song like “Singing in the Rain” that places a smile on our face.

Simply humming “Amazing Grace” is enough to remind someone that “it is well with my soul.”

What has your experience with music been? In talking with Connie this week, I realized that music formed my first sensory experience of church.

It was a Wednesday night when my Mom dropped me off at the back of the Lake Ronkonkoma United Methodist Church.

I walked up a short flight of concrete steps into a small, square room filled with rows of folding chairs. It was choir practice. There I learned “Morning Has Broken” and “They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love.”

The first a gentle tune that felt peaceful to sing; the second had a marching beat with a Native American vibe that “felt” strong.

To this day, nearly 35 years later, when I hear those two songs I can see those steps, picture that room, and those chairs and get that same sense of peace and strength.

Truth is, music has always been a huge part of my faith journey. It was music that God used to call me to ministry. It was a song about children that lead me to work with neglected and abused youth.

It was music that gave me voice when I have felt angry at God. It’s music that’s been there when my soul just wants to clap hands and sing.

Music has been there every step of the way; good and bad, empty and full, lost and found, with the ability to heal and transform, to create and inspire.

Before we get to the conclusion, how many people read the article in last Sunday’s paper about an artist in Mexico City who is using music in the most unique way?

His name is Pedro Reyes. He has gathered guns from all over the city, guns that have been seized by the police, to create a musical instrument.

He has taken guns which were used to kill and intimidate others, many for the purpose of drug trafficking, to transform them into an instrument that sounds like a bass guitar.

Using pieces that were once ammunition magazines, gun barrels and pistol parts, Pedro Reyes has made it so that now instead of destroying life, they are used to create “rhythmic, syncopated sound.”

Reyes says his creation has an ability to exorcise the demons within the parts, that when his musical creation made up of weapons is played “the music expelled the demons they held, as well as being a requiem for lives lost.”

Think of how profound a thing he has done. Some thing that once represented death, now used to celebrate life.

(Like the cross.)

Amazing how God can change even the sound of gunfire into the sound of a song.

In closing, God has indeed done marvelous things. Yes, not all of us lead charmed lives with an easy existence or steady success.

We face temptations, we fall out of line, we lose our place in the parade, but we can say that God has been good; God has been the music in our lives.

Today we give thanks for that music.

We give our thanks and we show our appreciation for our organist Sue, for our Minister of Music Connie, and for our choir, all our choirs, with the songs they sing; the anthems they share, the ways in which their talents remind us of God’s glory.

They allow us to respond to God’s greatness with joy. They remind us that no matter what may have happened during the week, no matter how much we may have fallen out of line, the Lord alone is King.

The seas roar, the hills sing, the floods clap their hands, and we, as inhabitants of creation’s congregation, get to join in on the chorus, breaking into joyous song and praise.

Amen and amen.

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