Pastor John Hein, Our Redeemer’s, Red Wing, Minn. gives a shortened version of a sermon he preached to his congregation while the ILC Tour Choir was among the worshipers.
“Oh, Sing to the LORD a New Song!” — Psalm 98
It is a most impressive experience to be able to hear the ocean roar. One is amazed at the substantial power behind the ocean waves as they lap upon the seashore and as their whitecaps spray into the air. At the same time it can be so relaxing to sit by the sea, close one’s eyes, and listen to the melodic drifting of the waves and perhaps the distant calling of the sea gulls. Sounds of nature such as those of the seaside, of singing birds, of falling rain, and of electrifying thunderstorms, can bring sweet music to our ears. They have chords which express both power and tranquility. To hear sounds of this sort puts us in touch with God’s wonderful creation and the beauty of it all.
But what about sounds and chords that accomplished our salvation? Not long age we pondered the season of Lent, the suffering and death of our Savior Jesus Christ. Did you hear the grand symphony of this particular season? How about the loud CRACK and SNAP of the whip upon our Savior’s back as He was scourged by Roman soldiers? How about the dull THUD of the hammer as it drove nails into our Savior’s hands and feet?
But what about the most eerie and most devastating musical phrase of the entire Passion? How about the loud cry of our Savior which rang out into the dark sky as He was crucified — that painful and chilling solo of our Savior as He suffered the just judgment of God upon our sin — that cry “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” An eerie solo indeed. And yet a powerful solo. For in connection with that grimacing resonance, the Lord’s right hand obtained the victory, the victory over sin and the power of the devil. As the Psalm declares: “Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory” (Ps. 98:1).
From year to year a new song resounds within the walls of many of our congregations. They declare to us the comforting Gospel in the words and music that they bring to us. They do not sing these songs only to bring sweet melodies to our ears or to bring attention to themselves. But they sing unto the Lord a new song because He has done marvelous things. He has saved us! And so the Tour Choir members bring jubilant praises to the Lord.
Such praises are far grander than any harmonious sound we may hear in nature. The sound of birds singing is replaced with the sound of gracious soprano voices. The sound of the booming waves of the ocean is replaced with the low vibrato of the bass section. The sound of the electrifying thunderstorm is replaced with the sounds of organ, brass, and percussion instruments. We may not hear the soothing and powerful sounds of nature as we gather together in our churches. Nevertheless, the music we hear from the Tour Choir has an even greater and more elegant effect. It soothes and it moves our troubled and guilty hearts. To hear the melodic harmonies and the powerful sounds of sacred music puts us in touch — not with nature, but with the beauty and power of God’s grace in Christ. He has truly done marvelous things!
We certainly benefit when we are blessed with the ability to hear sounds. But we are all the more blessed when all the elements of sound are selected, manipulated, and organized so that we have what is called music. What a gift such music is! With music a phenomenal power affects the hearts, the emotions, and the minds of people. There is the Biblical story of David refreshing King Saul’s troubled heart by the music of the harp. There is the crying infant who receives serenity as its mother or father sings a lullaby. There is the joy of learning as a child sings the ABC’s. There is the ease of memorizing words to hymns as the melodies persist in our heads. Therefore, with the remarkable impact that music has on us, there is no better way for people to learn from God or to make praises to God.
The melodic rhythm and harmony of the ocean waves upon the seashore can indeed be soothing and powerful. But music connected with the revitalizing message of the Gospel of Christ can be far more soothing and powerful, for it can comfort the human heart troubled with sin, and move the sluggish human heart to praise the Lord. May we express such power and tranquility in all our sacred music as we are put in touch with the gracious yet powerful right hand of God. Oh, let us all sing a new song unto the Lord, for He has done marvelous things!