Sermon for 6 Easter Yr B

6 Easter Yr B, 9/05/2021

Ps 98

Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Make a joyful noise to the LORD”

In addition to being the 6th Sunday of Easter, today is Mother’s Day. So I thought I’d ask you three questions about mothers. What type of flowers are best to give on Mother’s Day? Chrysanthe-mums. Which movie do mothers like the best? Mamma Mia! Why are there no Mother’s Day sales? Well, because mothers are priceless. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers!

Now to Psalm 98. My NRSV Lutheran Study Bible has two titles: the superscription is, simply, “A Psalm.” The second title is: Praise the Judge of the World.” The Good News Bible gives it this title: “God the Ruler of the World.” The Lutheran Study Bible identifies Psalm 98 as a hymn of praise (p. 849). Hymns of praise celebrate God’s love and grace. They were written for community worship. The original occasion from which Psalm 98 was created may have been God’s deliverance of Israel from some kind of danger or crisis.

As ancient Israel knew; as the church down through the ages knew; as you and I know; music, making a joyful noise to the LORD, is an extremely important and integral part of the community of faith’s worship.

Martin Luther had several significant things to say about the importance of music. On one occasion he said: “A person who does not regard music as a marvellous gift of God must be a clodhopper indeed, and does not deserve to be called a human being, but should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” On another occasion Luther said: “Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate, what more effective means than music could you find?”

Then there was that famous quote attributed to Shakespeare, but actually written by William Congreve: “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”

Speaking of Shakespeare, I don’t know if you are aware of this, but Sir Edward Elgar is the composer behind “Pomp and Circumstance,” which was named after a line from William Shakespeare’s “Othello.” Sir Edward composed the song in 1901, and the march was intended for the coronation of King Edward VII. When Elgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale University in 1905, the march was played in his honour as a recessional. Once Yale used the march, other universities began to play the march as well. Eventually it became the trendy thing to do and “Pomp and Circumstance” became forever ingrained in graduation custom.

Speaking of music in relation to schools; here are a few student answers that public school music teachers collected from test questions.

Refrain means don’t do it. A refrain in music is the part you better not try to sing. A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals. Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was rather large. Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music…Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died from this. When electric currents go through them, guitars start making sounds. So would anybody.1

In Psalm 98, the psalmist exhorts God’s faithful: “O sing to the LORD a new song.” The reason for sing a new song to the LORD is given: “for he has done marvellous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.” So the “marvellous things” may refer to God’s “victory,” God’s deliverance of Israel from some danger or crisis—perhaps it was some kind of military victory.

Of course, for us Christians, during this Easter season, when we think of God’s “marvellous things,” and when we think of God’s “victory,” what comes to mind is God raising Jesus from the dead, and by so doing, winning the final victory over sin, death and the powers of evil.

So important is God’s “marvellous things,” God’s “victory” that: “All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” Again, from our perspective as Christians, the message of the Gospel, of Jesus’ resurrection, is a “go and tell” message meant for all people. That’s why over the centuries missionaries have preached, and continue to preach, the Good News in Word and deed around the globe. A message of priceless worth.

In verses four to six, the psalmist continues to exhort Israel and us to: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD,” to “break forth into joyous song and sing praises.” It is most tragic that COVID-19 has prevented us from singing in our worship services! Most, if not all of us grieve, and truly miss not being able to sing as we worship the LORD. We look forward, and hope that the time will soon come when it is safe for us to make a joyful noise to the LORD by singing hymns of praise.

The psalmist continues in verses four to six by mentioning that singing was accompanied by musical instruments. Three of them are mentioned—the lyre, trumpets, and the horn.

The lyre was actually a harp, it was a portable rectangular or trapezoid-shaped instrument with two arms, often of unequal length and curved, joined at the top by a cross-piece; the strings were roughly the same length. It was an instrument of joyful celebration, generally used to accompany singing. David, the “sweet psalmist of Israel,” is depicted playing a lyre in a sixth-century floor mosaic at the synagogue at Gaza. In Jerusalem, a lyre with twelve strings connected by an oblique crossbar decorates a brown jasper seal, dating back to the seventh century B.C.

The trumpet was made of metal, either bronze or silver. It was probably a short, straight instrument, with a high, bright tone and a range of only four or five notes. Its early uses are well summarized in Numbers 10:2-10. It was played by the priests, usually in pairs, but occasionally in large choirs (2 Chronicles 5:12-13), and it numbered among the sacred gold and silver utensils of the Temple (2 Kings 12:14; Numbers 31:6).

The horn, most likely the ram’s horn-shophar, is the most frequently mentioned biblical instrument, and the only ancient instrument still in use in the synagogue. It was usually made from the horn of a ram, sometimes softened with heat and straightened or shaped. It was a simple instrument that could only produce two or three notes, and it was used mostly for signalling, especially in times of war (Judges 3:27; 6:34; Nehemiah 4:18-20) or of national celebration (1 Kings 1:34; 2 Kings 9:13).2

In addition, to God’s faithful people singing and playing psalms of praise; the psalmist personifies God’s creation in verses seven and eight; exhorting the sea and its creatures to roar; the floods or rivers to clap their hands; and the hills or mountains to sing together for joy. During biblical times, the sea and floods were viewed as foreboding places; places of danger and chaos. Yet, here in this psalm they ironically praise and worship God by roaring and clapping.

Verse nine provides the reason for human beings and God’s creation to worship and praise the LORD: “he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness [justice], and the peoples with equity.”

New life is possible when God judges the earth. God is able to right the wrongs of the world. Tyranny and oppression are replaced with freedom and justice. Illness and disease are transformed into healing and health. God’s judgement, justice, righteousness, and equity give hope to the hopeless; remove hatred by his love; and surprise us all by defeating the powers of sin, death and evil with his new, resurrection life. So let us continue to make a joyful noise to the LORD—even if it is by humming, until the day comes when we can sing again!

1 David E. Leininger, Lectionary Tales For The Pulpit: Series VI Cycle B (Lima, Ohio: CSS Publishing Co., Inc., 2008), p. 145.

2 See “Music,” in: Paul J. Achtemeier, General Editor, Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985), pp. 668-669.

About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

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