Reflections by Jerry Webber

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Singing a New Song

God put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.

(Ps. 40:3)

Sing to the Lord a new song,
sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.

(Ps. 96:1)

Sing to the Lord a new song,
for the Lord has done marvelous things.

(Ps. 98:1)

"A new song" . . . the phrase shows up frequently in the Hebrew Psalms. I've long been willing to pray and sing the words, but I haven't always known what I was saying.

Is it simply a unique way of putting together some chords and lyrics, cutting and pasting chord patterns and some rhyming words? Is that "singing a new song"?

When does a "new song" become an "old song." I mean, it's new the first time through, right?

Then it's almost new . . . then sorta new . . . then kinda new.

I'm fond of a version of Psalm 40 put to music by Bono, the Edge, and the rest of U2. It's a great song, and my friend Peter Johns does a wonderful version of it for our weekly Contemplative Worship. The song's chorus goes like this:

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long, how long, how long,
How long to sing this song?

By the time you sing that chorus three or four times in the course of the song, you get to the end and want to sing a "used-to-be-new song to the Lord."

If a "new song" is just a metaphor, a clever device aimed at getting us to think outside the ruts of our lives, outside the places where we are stuck, where we are stale and dragging through sameness, then it works with me for awhile. It gives some temporary hope that when the world seems small and closed-in, the narrow field of possibilities really is larger than I had thought. There are doors of possibility I haven't seen, or haven't acknowledged. These doors that I haven't seen or stepped into may be the "new song" of my life.

So as a metaphor, it may work in the short term for getting me to open up a bit to the God-shaped possibilities for life.

I want to suggest a meaning for "new song" more basic and fundamental. I think the new song I am to sing is my life, my unique life, one-off-a-kind, lived as only I can live it.

My new song is the unique way I am connected to God, and it is the unique way I am connected to you, to others, and to the world.

My one-of-a-kind life is the new song I have to sing . . . and your one-of-a-kind life is the new song you have to sing.

It is a new song because it has never been sung before. No one else has ever lived your life. No one else has ever faced the exact set of challenges you face, has celebrated the specific joys you celebrate, has been connected to God in just the way you are, or has lived among the specific set of people you have.

If nothing else, your family and friends and neighbors and co-workers -- the whole web of relationships you have -- make your life entirely unique.

You are not invited to live your life the way I live my life. . . or the way anyone else lives their life. You are invited to the fullness of your unique life, as I am invited to my unique life. I sing my song, you sing your song.

And the song I sing is always a "new song," always different and fresh, because each day my life is different. Each day I am presented with new possibilities and new challenges and new ways of being in the world for God. So on and on into the future, the song my life sings is ever-new.

You don't have to find the pre-ordained notes to the score God has written. As God lives within you, inhabits you, energizes you, you are the score. Your moment-by-moment life is the pattern of notes, the harmony to the song you are given to sing and to be.

I hope you can sense, then, that your new song is not something to figure out, to wrestle with and struggle over as you try to come to whatever your song is. Usually we think about the "will of God" as something difficult to find, something that takes great effort to discern. Rather, in this view, your new song is something to live, something to be. It is your everyday, ordinary life lived with God for the good of the world.

Your very life is a new song, non-repeatable, creative, expansive and uniquely your own.

Don't try to sing someone else's song. Sing your song. Live your life.

Several days ago, this is how I imaged my new song in the language of Psalm 96:1 - 2:

I sing to you a new song,
the only song I can sing,
the song of my life,
played out for you in my own tune,
the tune no one else can play.

I sing my song to you before the whole world;
I sing my life to you and it mirrors your Name;
my song, a testimony to your goodness and generosity
toward me every single moment of every single day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suppose since I am not much of a singer, an image that helps me is a dance. In Beatrice Bruteau's book RADICAL OPTOMISM, she says "where the dance is concerned, you have the dance only as long as the dancer is dancing; the dance is the dancer in the act of dancing...The dancer is thoroughly present in the gesture and the gesture cannot be speparated from the dancer's act."

"The Creator is fully present in the creature, because the creature is God's act of creating, not some product left over after the act of creation is finished. And the act of creating is the active presence of the Creator."

What makes me to be a unique person is nothing other than the act of God creating me moment by moment, step by step.