Winthrop Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
No matter who you are. No matter where you are on life's journey. You are welcome here.
O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gained him victory. The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He 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.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at 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.
On October 12th, we asked the question on Facebook: What object in your home (think furniture, appliance, tool, art piece, etc) are you most thankful for? When I say we, I mean the church asked people who follow us on Facebook this question. Kate, who has made it to her winter home in Mexico safely, said her sewing machine, which is no big surprise. Her TV, recliner, and space heater were all honorable mentions. Gwen is thankful for her center island in the kitchen, where her family so readily gathers together. Penny is thankful for a picture she has of her late husband Bruce, her children, Matt and Meredith and her taken for Matt’s graduation. Jen is thankful for her stove and her microwave. Cindy, who worships with us occasionally and is a member of another church, is grateful for her furnace. It must have been a cold one the night before.
October 9th, we asked, “What in nature are you most grateful for?” Dina gave thanks for trees and Rev. Holly Morrison, a colleague is a preacher and a farmer, said, “The way the earth reminds us that everything needs a rest before the next season of striving...says the tired farmer in the middle of harvest season!” Lee W. said all the wildlife and beauty of fall. Others answered, too. You should go back and read them. In fact, I’d recommend going and looking at all the questions we asked about joy and gratefulness over the month of October. I learned about people’s favorite books and favorite Bible stories and that most people can’t name only one person they are grateful for. On that question, most everyone wanted to name at least two. Isn’t it a wonderful bit of grace to see this church’s members and friends be unable to limit the gratitude they express?
There was only one question that didn’t get at least a couple answers. The only one that didn’t get any responses was “What new ways of being "together for joy" have you learned this year?” Maybe it was just because it was on Wednesday and everybody was busy on Wednesday or maybe it just didn’t inspire people the way some of the other questions. Or, maybe a lot of this year has been harder because we can’t get together in the ways we really love. It hasn’t been safe to gather for the church fairs or fellowship hour inside the building, two of our favorite ways of being together. We haven’t been able to sing in person either, one of our other favorite ways of being together. Surely, though, there has been joy in the new ways.
Wasn’t outdoor worship this summer a gift, even when we had some tech issues? And, each week, I watch you pray and cheer with joy for each during our online church services. And, when I’ve asked for video snippets to stitch together for worship on Palm Sunday and Pentecost, you happily obliged. We piece together so much joy in those videos, even if it wasn’t quite the same way it would have been had we been worshiping in the sanctuary together. Sometime this summer, in a sermon about Joseph, I talked about remembering as re-membering, that is, putting things together in new and different ways, for a redemptive purpose. I learned that phrase from a scholar named Christopher Davis. This year has been a year for re-membering church, learning how to be a body of Christ in this day, according to the needs of this time. I think this probably means we need to be re-membering joy, too.
Let’s return to the beginning of the Psalm. “O sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done marvelous things.” The scholar Rolph Jacobson, in his commentary on this Psalm, said that it is best to understand this “new song” as not simply a new composition. This isn’t about quickly writing a song about the stuff gone has done in the past. A new song is inspired by a new, particular act of God. Dr. Jacobson puts it this way. He says, “The new song means to write and sing a song that has to be ‘new’ because God has just done something new -- such as a new act of deliverance, a new act of grace, a new act of forgiveness, or a new act of blessing.” In an era where everything seems so precarious, what does it mean to be attentive to God’s new actions in this world? God is mysterious and moves in all kinds of ways. But, mystery is kind of a pain right now. We could do with a little certainty right about now, thank you very much.
Frankly, I’m not feeling much like I’m at a Psalm 98 level right now. It’s not that I don’t believe deliverance is possible, it’s just that deliverance from what is weighing on me hasn’t happened yet. Psalm 98 is my future. I’m sure of it. I’m just back in another Psalm, maybe 42 or 43. Maybe you’re not to 98 yet, but I know that we can get there. We’re just in the re-membering stage... the putting the pieces of deliverance and grace together for a redemptive purpose. And, while we’re waiting for a sign of God’s action in the world, we’ll continue to act as we are inspired by God in this world. I shared with you a prayer in the Newsy Note on Tuesday. It seems worth repeating. My colleague the Rev. Thea Racelis shared it with me first. It is by Rabbi Jack Riemer and has been adapted to make the language more inclusive.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end war;
For we know that You have made the world in a way
That we must find our own path to peace
Within ourselves and with our neighbors.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end starvation;
For you have already given us the resources
With which to feed the entire world
If we would only use them wisely.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to root out prejudice,
For You have already given us eyes
With which to see the good in all people
If we would only use them rightly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power
To clear away oppression and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end disease,
For you have already given us great minds with which
To search out cures and healing,
If we would only use them constructively.
Therefore we pray to You instead, O God,
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just to pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.
For Your sake and for ours, speedily and soon,
That our land and world may be safe,
And that our lives may be blessed.
May the words that we pray, and the deeds that we do,
Be acceptable before You, O Lord,
Our Rock and Our Redeemer.
And, today, I will add my prayer to this one: O God, may we soon write our new song. Amen.
Resources consulted when writing this sermon:
Rolf Jacobson: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4326
Christopher Davis: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4588
Pastor Chrissy is a native of East Tennessee. She and her wife moved to Maine from Illinois. She is a graduate of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and Chicago Theological Seminary.