Sunday, March 12
Rev. Bob Shaner
“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.”
This first verse in Psalm 95 is best understood in its historical context, six centuries before Christ, where its message is addressed to THE WHOLE PEOPLE of God — a message that speaks to our day. The people had strayed from their commitment and devotion to God and were now exiled in Babylon. Struggling and dwindling, they were adrift. The once proud, expanding, mighty fabric (God’s chosen, the twelve tribes of Israel likened to be as numerous as the stars) were becoming a remnant — a shell of their former self. The grand, royal days of King David were past. They had found other allegiances, other gods. As in our time, more “non’s” than believers comprised the larger community. The covenant faith of Abraham and Sarah, diminished in number, was in shambles. What kind of message could reach an improvised people, shake this trend, and awaken them from lethargy? How could the shrinking faithful be nourished and strengthened, not just to endure and survive, but thrive…to be renewed, emboldened, equipped, and empowered in a world indifferent to God’s purposes?
Whether to ancient Israel or us, God continues to speak through the psalmist not in some privatized spiritual sense to a single individual but to THE WHOLE PEOPLE OF GOD. The psalmist is not using some introspective, meditative, withdrawal, or seclusive language but rather is speaking in IMPERATIVE language with verbs of action. The message is not to be avoided or evaded or trivialized, but to be lived vibrantly in and through the faithful for the sake of the world:
SING FOR JOY…
SHOUT ALOUD to the rock of our salvation…
COME, a call for action — communal behavior to be “lived out.” In the sanctuary, yes, but also in the world! SING FOR JOY — let the faith be known! SHOUT ALOUD — boldly speak the good news in terms that the world can see and hear — especially the song of justice and freedom, the music of redemptive love of neighbor, the melody that embraces the migrant, the marginal and the refugee, as well as the joyful chorus proclaiming peace and ecological harmony.
Now in our ”Lenten season” at Grace we are preparing again for “the feast of victory” that only God can bring out of the suffering, scandalous death of Jesus. Even in these days of a contracting church in a culture that worships self and adores pleasure, God speaks through the psalmist in imperative, action language, evoking a behavior the world needs: COME, SING FOR JOY, SHOUT ALOUD to the rock of our salvation.
O Savior of the world whose mighty deeds provide the message of our song, speak to us again through the psalmist that we might COME and SING for joy, making A LOUD NOISE to the rock of our salvation. Embolden us to reach out with good news to the impoverished, to embrace all in need, and to invite others to the living waters of forgiveness where bread can be found for the journey. Amen