SERMON for JUNE 14, 2020
MAKING JOYFUL NOISE
Text: Psalm 100
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.” Psalm 100: 1
Today – we are focusing on one of the top five most familiar psalms – psalm 100 – a psalm that is often set to music and chanted in the liturgies of other traditions. Remember that the psalms are the words of songs, the poetic lyrics of hymns and spiritual songs which were and still are sung and chanted in synagogues, temples, and churches throughout the world. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to one of the first Christian churches in Colossus: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” Colossians 3: 16
Yes, there is a time to lament, a time to lament injustice, racism, hatred, murder, violence – the sin that lies within us – the sin that separates us from the love of God and from loving one another. As God’s people, we lament together where we are in these divisive times as a nation. Lament is different from grieving and mourning; lament includes regret.
Even when hard to hear, may we be steadfast and faithful in listening to those who lament the injustices that have been and still are the cause of so much unnecessary suffering in our world.
Today, let me encourage you to hear and digest and absorb in to the marrow of your bones the words of Psalm 100. Like the 23rd Psalm, you may want to commit these words to memory. In our worship service, we are taking time to listen to joyful noise – thanks to all the music that has been submitted by faithful members. Even if we cannot carry a tune well and would not begin to make a recording of ourselves singing, my hope is that we would all rise to the occasion and heed the call to “make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.” Psalm 100: 1
Let me start by asking you to reflect on the opening words of Psalm 100 – “make a joyful noise to the Lord,” and do an honest self-assessment. How much joyful noise have you been making lately? I believe that I am assuming correctly that you have been making noise over the past few weeks, within your homes – maybe on social media, perhaps vocalizing opinions more loudly than usual. There is a lot of word shouting going on in tweets and texts and posts.
Words matter. There are words that heal, and there are words that hurt and wound. We cannot unhear words. There are times when we will be exposed to words that we do not want to hear, and like contagious viruses, they can affect us profoundly. People become so angry and agitated by posts on social media, yet I ask: why do they choose to listen to rants – often the rants of people not even know personally – often the rants of unknown people who hide behind screens of anonymity – sometimes the rants of outsiders who use vitriolic language, words as weapons, to instigate conflicts and fuel violence? Why listen to them?
We can choose to whom we listen, whose voices we follow on social media, on what words we focus our attention and energy, on the noise we carry in our hearts and minds. Is it joyful noise? If not, why are we listening to it?
On the other side of the communication equation, what kind of noise are we making these days? Is it joyful noise? Do our words cause the Lord joy? Is the heavenly host rejoicing over the noise we are putting out into the world with our words – or not? How well are we heeding the words of Psalm 100:
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.”
If you think that there is a lack of joyful noise in the world in our times
, then even more so – do your part in making joyful noise insofar as it is humanly possible. Worship the Lord with gladness. Come into his presence with singing.
What are some of the songs of faith that you like to sing or like to hear? You may like to sing them or hum them or listen with appreciation when others sing. Let me encourage you to memorize at least the first verse of your hymn favorites, and you can sing them to yourself if you do not want others to overhear. When it comes to vocal quality and musical ability, we are not all equally gifted, but we can sing on anyway. As an aside, if you want to see a movie that will make you laugh, a movie based on the true story of a woman who thought she could sing and truly did not have that gift, watch the movie Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant (2016). Just thinking about that movie makes me smile.
Another suggestion: saturate your mind and home with joyful music for the next 30 days, and during that time, fast from listening to people, politicians, and posts that are negative and hateful in nature. Again – we choose whether or not to listen to voices that upset us. It might sound extreme, but fasting from the news for a while can be very healing for the mind and spirit. If you are worried that you might miss out on some important news, ask a trusted friend or family member to serve as your news filter and to inform you if there is something that you really need to know about. You might be surprised to discover how much you do not have to keep up with – after all. Rather than keep up with the negative news cycle, you might choose to listen to music, hymns, and spiritual songs that lifts your spirit, nourishes your soul, and feeds the mind with good things – with joyful noise to carry within and to share with others – even if only in digital format.
For me, as I imagine it is for you, it is really hard not being able to gather in the sanctuary for worship, for making joyful noise together, and for listening to Pat on the organ, to our choir, to our instrumentalists, and to you – the congregation. While we cannot make joyful noise together on Sunday mornings during this pandemic, a pandemic that is still far from over, we can make joyful noise outside the walls of the church - in our homes and wherever we might be – outside the ordinary times for worshiping together – whether or not we are gifted musically. Before adding your voice to conversations, take a moment and ask yourself – am I making joyful noise? Do my words make the heavens rejoice? We do not have to vocalize everything that is on our hearts and minds. Sometimes – silence is golden.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he urges the faithful congregation with words that can encourage us:
“Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5: 18b-20.
To God be the glory for joyful noise!