Text: Psalm 98
O sing to the Lord a new song,
who has done marvelous things.
Whose right hand and holy arm
have won victory.
O Lord you have made known your victory;
you have revealed your vindication in the sight of the nations.
You remembered your steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands;
life us your voice, rejoice, and sing.
Sing to the Lord with the harp,
with the hap and the voice of song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
shout with joy before the King, the Lord.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell therein.
Let the rivers clap their hands
and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
who comes to judge the earth.
The Lord will judge the world with righteousness
and the peoples with equity.
(The following sermon was preached on 9/19/17 at Augsburg University)
(Hear audio of this sermon beginning around the 12 minute mark here.)
A few weeks ago when I learned I would have the opportunity to preach today…I chose this text. Psalm 98…
you see when I first sang “Marvelous Things” as part of the Gospel choir at the Lutheran seminary in Chicago it did something to me.
**First of all it got stuck in my head—like all the time,
but secondly it made me feel hope, it made me feel alive. I think it had something to do with being together, in a community of folks and celebrating the life we had together and the marvelous things that God has done in our lives.
And a few weeks ago I chose this text about the Marvelous Things God has done and that song
for today because I thought we might need to hear it. I thought we might need the reminder, that we might need to feel the hopefulness that coming together and shouting, and singing, instruments, clapping, dancing can bring. I think part of me wanted to feel that hope again.
I last felt a powerful hope this past Saturday during the tree planting ceremony Pastor Sonja introduced a Dakota relative Jesse High Eagle and I remember Sonja said that Jesse High Eagle was returning to her homeland…right here. Her homeland.
The way she sang, oh my goodness when Jesse High Eagle sang I felt a strange mix of sorrow, and peace. I felt a little healing, I felt a little hope.
These are tough times.
Right now the United States in not a welcoming place, not by a long shot. If I’m to do as Martin Luther said, and tell the truth, to call a thing what it is…then I have to say that the United States is clearly inhospitable to so many of God’s children. There are structures and powers in place that make it unsafe to be a person of color, to be transgender, to be a Muslim in the United States of America. And that ain’t right.
I read my twitter feed and I feel sad, and angry and hurt. I don’t even know where to start, I’m not going to run through all the bad news, because I’m pretty sure you’ve been feeling it to.
I must confess, it’s hard for me to praise God for the marvelous things that God has done when the world seems so messed up. Sometimes when I look around all I can think is “that ain’t right.”
At the end of the psalm we just read together it says that God will judge the earth with righteousness and with equity.
That can sound pretty frightening. Judgement. But then again the idea of righteousness and equity sounds pretty good. Righteousness…setting things aright, making things as they should be. Equity, what is fair and just.
What if the things that make us say, “that ain’t right” were changed? What if they were made right? In this text the psalmist proclaims that God will set the world aright, God has done it before, and God will do it again.
Ok, now I feel a little bit like praising God, or at least talking about how good our God is.
Look at what God has done!
-When the earth was a formless void God spoke life into existence. God made us, and all of creation. Put us in relationship with one another. And called creation good.
-When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt God brought them through the waters of the Red Sea and into freedom.
-God came to live among us as Jesus. As Lutheran sometimes say before communion God came to live among us as Jesus, to live his life among the outcasts, to preach good news to the poor and to heal the sick.
-And when Jesus was put on trial, and through a miscarriage of justice when Jesus was executed. When Jesus was dead. Death did not have the last say. God raised Jesus from the dead!
God has done marvelous things.
Marvelous things that are life giving, and healing, marvelous things that make the world how it ought to be.
As a Christian, this is the God I praise. She is the God whose Spirit calls us into the liberating and redemptive work that God is always, always about.
And we, with God’s help, with God’s spirit, can be a part of these marvelous things. We can pursue peace, we can work for justice. And you know what, we’re not alone.
We have ancestors in the faith who have gone before us. Esther and Moses. Mary and Peter. Martin Luther, Harriet Tubman, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr.
And look around. You’re not alone here. You’ve got folks around you who God has also called.
God’s Spirit moves among us as we gather together today in word and in song. God Spirit will move among us again as we gather around word and meal here, tomorrow night. She has equipped each of us with gifts for the healing that this world needs, and that we need. And God has given us one another. Cuz God knows we need each other.
I think that’s one of the hardest parts for us…knowing, seeing, admitting that we need each other. But we do, because change happens in community. None of those ancestors were alone, yes they had God with them, but they also had God’s holy family with them.
It’s the same with us, we need each other. For support, for love, for companionship for fellowship. That’s why we gather here today to be changed by the power of the Spirit. To be changed as we read scripture, to be changed as we deepen our relationships together in prayer and in song.
Our gifts are different, but scripture tells us they are from one Spirit. And we know what kind of things God’s Spirit is up to, because God’s Spirit always bends toward justice and liberation.
Praise be to the God who is continually bringing life out of death, hope out of despair and joy out of suffering. What a marvelous thing.