Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you. All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” Selah
Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals. He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him, who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations – let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah
Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living and has not let our feet slip. For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
~ Psalm 66:1-12 (NRSVUE)
I know it probably seems cliché for a music minister to use one of the “Make a joyful noise” verses, but this one is part of our weekly lectionary provided by Disciples.org. I am not using it in this Sunday’s sermon, so I decided to use it here. It is also a timely message and one that has been on my mind a lot lately. The first thing I will say about this passage is to use it as a shameless plug for our Christmas Cantata, “The Gift” by Lloyd Larson, which will be presented on Sunday, December 11, at 11:00 a.m. Not only are you all VERY encouraged to come and enjoy this worship service full of beautiful music, but you are also invited to participate! I know there are many, many talented singers at PHCC who have only been hesitant to sing in the choir because they are not confident in their music reading abilities, but I want you to know that your voice is needed and wanted! Even if you don’t read music well, we have recordings of the cantata that you can listen to and learn your part. The other folks in the choir are also happy to help you as much as possible. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you would like to come “sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise” with us.
Even if you don’t feel like your voice is good enough to perform with the choir, I want to encourage everyone worshiping in either service at PHCC, or in whatever church you happen to be at on Sunday morning, to sing loud and sing proud. The psalm doesn’t say “Make an on-key noise to God with good tone and proper support.” It says, “Make a JOYFUL noise to God!” I think we all know how cathartic it can be to belt out our favorite song in the car or in the shower, and I can guarantee that if you put that much energy into singing in church on Sunday morning, you will have an elevated worship experience. In my ever-so-humble opinion, singing praises to God is just as important to building a relationship with him as prayer. And for some of us, offering songs of praise IS our prayer.
Finally, this psalm gives us several reasons why we should sing our praises to God. It reminds us of a few of the amazing things God has done. I think the last three verses are immensely pertinent for today. We are all still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; from losing friends and loved ones, from relationships being strained; from being away from our church families, Sunday school classes, youth groups, and all the wonderful in-person gatherings that we took for granted before the spring of 2020. But, as I have mentioned before, we are finally on the other side of it. We have been through the fire and the water. We have been tried (or refined) like silver is tried. We have been burdened, but now God has brought us into a new, spacious place. Other translations say, “You have brought us to rich fulfillment,” “a place of freedom,” or even “a place of great abundance.” So, even if we found it difficult to sing praises over the last two years, now, we have no excuse. We made it through. We are together again and now it is time to lift our voices in glorious praise, to make a joyful noise!
Min. Logan J. Smith