a sermon on Psalm 100
preached on October 20, 2013, at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
I can’t imagine life without music. I know this isn’t the case for everyone—maybe it just comes from being born into a family where music was important, from being surrounded by music in church from a very early age, or from all the piano lessons, band practices, and choir rehearsals that filled my childhood years! Whatever the reasons, the incredible gift of sound and song is an indelible part of my days.
I keep finding that when music is fully and completely in my life, something about me is different. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much I am different over the last year since I joined the New Amsterdam Singers, and I myself can feel it. I can even feel it right now simply because I’ve had to miss two consecutive weeks of rehearsals! There is simply something very special about making music with other people, so much so that there is even scientific evidence that something changes in our brains when we sing together!
And so it is with the church, too. Something is different when we sing together. Even though we are not the largest congregation and don’t normally have a choir to lead us in song, we have an incredible gift of music in our life together—and not just because of Julie’s talents that she so willingly shares, my own love of music, or even our wonderful guests who enrich our celebration and hymnal dedication today. Something happens each and every time we lift our voices in response to the psalmist’s command: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.” As I say often, I’m very glad for this exhortation, for it doesn’t urge us to make a beautiful noise or sing a familiar song—it instructs us to make a joyful noise, whatever that may be.
This joyful noise is the beginning of our worship of God. We bring our songs of praise and thanksgiving, our recognitions of God’s wondrous creation in our lives, our hope of God’s continuing presence among us, and our confidence in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. We “come into God’s presence with singing” and make it clear that all our praise is directed to God. All our songs—new and old, in languages familiar and unfamiliar, simple and complex, whatever the season or occasion—all our songs give thanks to God.
And so today we celebrate this gift of song, not just for those who love to sing but for all the earth, not just for those who can carry a tune beautifully but for those who think they can carry no tune at all, not just when we sing out of these new books but when we offer the songs of our hearts to God. The songs we share in this place can fill the role of nearly everything we do together: offering praise, expressing confession, sharing the word, showing concern for others, calling for justice and peace, gathering us at font and table, and sending us out to live out God’s new creation in the world. The songs we share in this place can express the depth and breadth of human emotion: the joy and excitement of new life, the challenges of difficult days, the laments of pain and suffering and death, and the hope of something more yet to come. And the songs we share in this place tell the great stories of our faith: the joy offered to the world in birth and life of Jesus, the wondrous love shown in his suffering and death, the joyous alleluias that emerge with in the light of the empty tomb, the amazing grace that shows us the depth of God’s mercy, and the love divine, all loves excelling, that sustains us each and every day.
So as we dedicate these new books of song today, as we lift up our voices to sing “glory to God,” may we not ever imagine life without music but instead make a joyful noise to the Lord and declare with heart and voice God’s goodness, steadfast love, and faithfulness as we raise our songs and hymns and spiritual songs to God in this place until we join with angels and saints and all creation to sing God’s praise forever and ever. Glory to God, now and always! Amen.