Last year, for the first time in my life, I deliberately stayed home from church on Mothers’ Day. Six weeks earlier our oldest child had died, and I knew I could not bear to spend Sunday morning celebrating Mothers’ Day.
Through my years as a pastor I have had many parishioners share with me that they stay home for Mothers’ and/or Fathers’ Day because it is so painful for them to endure. They may have recently lost a mother or father, or stayed away for other reasons, finding those days to be uncomfortable for them as well.
We have infertile couples who desperately want children but find themselves unable to conceive. They don’t feel like celebrating Mothers’ Day, either. I’ve been there, too. We had adopted as an infant our daughter, Kristen, whom we lost last year. I fondly remember how that baby forever changed our lives and our world!
Still others have grown up in homes with abusive parents, and don’t have those warm, fuzzy “mommy memories” from their childhoods. I was raised in an abusive, alcoholic family, and couldn’t wait to escape to a university several hundred miles from home.
As a pastor I have always tried to celebrate the “ChristianHome,” whatever that might look like. Today we have grandparents raising grandchildren, single-parent homes, foster homes, multiple-generations homes again, singles living alone, gays and lesbians, individuals with their significant other, and roommates of all varieties.
In a former congregation I spent time with an elderly couple who were bravely facing end-of-life issues. They were not parents, but still grieved for children of their own, even in their eighties. Let’s be sensitive to all of God’s children this Sunday. We don’t always know what has taken place in the lives of others, but we can reach out with the arms of Christ to encircle them, welcome, and include them snugly within the Family of God.
I think the passing out of pens, flowers, and other trinkets to mothers in the congregation excludes some of our most wonderful women. So do mother-daughter banquets.
When I went to college, I affiliated with a church there, and found myself a new “mother” named Marilyn, and a new family. She and Bob had young, adopted children, and graciously welcomed me into their home for celebrations and holidays. They picked me up at my dormitory, drove me to church, took me to their home, sometimes kept me overnight, and then returned me to my dorm. Marilyn was my mentor in the Christian life, and was very much the mother I never had while growing up. We still keep in touch today. Marilyn is almost eighty, and has been a wonderful disciple all her life. She and her family certainly changed my life.
John Wesley wrote in his Directions for Singing, “Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up you voice with strength.”
Our psalmist reminds both the Israelites and us to sing joyfully and lustily! When the psalmist requests that the Israelites sing a “new song,” they may wonder, “What is wrong with the old song?” After all, we know the old songs. We have sung the old ones since childhood for special occasions, at church camp, Sunday school, worship services, funerals, and weddings. Why do we need to sing something new?
A new song acknowledges God’s continuous creation of new life, new hope, new love, and new promises. Each morning is new, like that first morning. Along with a new day come new challenges and new opportunities. May God’s re-creation refresh and renew both our hearts and our spirits. Can we even imagine the rivers, the sea, and the mountains resounding, clapping hands, singing for us?
On my office wall is a plaque with my favorite quote from Martin Luther: “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to us that we should proclaim the Word of God in Music.”
Psalm 98 reminds us of the power and the importance of music. As we try to express our various feelings and emotions, the depth of our faith, and the many thoughts that cross our minds, music seems to be the truly universal language. The rhythm and beat of the music resound within us. What new songs of life are waiting to be sung in your life this week?
The Gospel of John is full of metaphorical images. In today’s reading the metaphor of the vine describes our relationship with Jesus.
My grandparents had grapevines hanging along the fence beside their house. I loved going out there in the summer sunshine to enjoy the grapes. When left on the vine to dry, they turned into raisins. Strangely enough some of the grapes never matured. Later I learned from my grandmother that the tiny branches that supported and supplied the buds with nutrition had been cut off from the main branches of the vine.
Jesus must have observed the same thing, living in an agrarian society. If we are cut off from the vine of God, we will not be able to abide in God’s love. Unless our lifeline is connected to God, and constantly nourished by the Word, we will be unable to keep the commandments. When we keep God’s commandments, we can feel the love of God. At that moment our joy will ripen and be fulfilled.
Jesus is not concerned with leaving the disciples money, prestige, success, or honor. He wants them and us to be full of joy, a joy that is both deep and full of contentment. Happiness is temporary, but God’s joy is complete.
Do you sense that rich, abiding love; that rich, deep joy?
Psalm 98:4 MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE UNTO THE LORD…………
When I was a little girl (around 7 or 8 years old), I had a friend in school whose church did not allow music at their services. One day, while riding in the car with my Mother, I decided to ask my Mother about this. Was music good or bad? After all, we sang our hearts out every Sunday in church, and filled the church with song and music. (We were Methodists – Methodists LOVE to sing.) If church music was good, was “other” music bad? If music wasn’t BAD, and we could sing in our church every Sunday, why couldn’t my friend sing in her church? I just didn’t understand.
With the infinite patience of a Mother with a child who asks too many questions, my Mother (who was driving), briefly turned to me, smiled, and said, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” That was all she said. She went back to her driving.
Nothing else was said for awhile. I looked out the window, watched the scenery
pass, and thought about my Mother’s words. In my child’s mind, I came to the conclusion that music was a good thing and that God liked music. In fact, it sounded to me like God WANTED music. I understood “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” as a
I remember this incident so well, as it was the moment in my life when my love
for music exploded. I had always enjoyed singing in church and Sunday School,
but now I wanted it ALL. I wanted piano lessons. I wanted dancing lessons.
I wanted harp lessons (because I thought that was the instrument the angels played).
I wanted an accordion from the door-to-door salesman that came by our house. I wanted to sing in the church choir. I wanted to make music any way that I could. I wanted to make a “joyful noise unto the Lord.”
My parents latched on to my new enthusiasm for anything musical. While they vetoed the accordion and the harp (darn - I had REALLY wanted that harp), they immediately signed me up for piano lessons and dancing lessons, and I continued to sing at church, and in later years, at school. I became a pretty good pianist, studied music, and my knowledge and love of music evolved throughout the years.
It is now decades later. I still love music. But, I haven’t touched a piano
in nearly 20 years. My husband doesn’t dance, so I no longer dance.
My singing (where someone can hear me) is most decidedly NOT making
a “joyful noise unto the Lord.” Honestly, it is pretty awful.
Psalm 98:6 “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” is about music.
Song and singing. Lyres (or harps, depending on the version you are reading).
Melody. Trumpets and horns.
A lot of us have no musical ability or talent. Some of us can’t play a musical
instrument. Some of us can’t hold a tune. Some of us can’t keep to the beat, and many can not read a line of music. How can those with no musical ability“make a joyful noise unto the Lord”?
I would like to think that we can make a “joyful noise unto the Lord” with our words.
Are words of kindness and compassion a “joyful noise unto the Lord”? Perhaps
telling a friend that they are “special,” or asking a stranger “Can I help you?” are joyful noises unto the Lord. What about words encouraging peace? I hope that the words that I say to others are a “joyful noise unto the Lord.”
Let our words also be music to God’s ears. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”
In loving memory of my Mom and Dad.
Rev. Bryan Jackson
The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
We are supposed to be ministers of the good news. The good news of God. We are expected to be ministers for the God that declares victory and makes his vindication known to “the nations.” Here in the USA, we have developed a sense of entitlement that has stretched over the centuries and continues to grow—unchecked—like a garden weed that just won’t die.
When Christian missionaries—on behalf of the God that is supposed to reveal the good news—invaded and took over the land of the American Indian—the entitlement spread. The Lord, these well-meaning Christians were taught, had declared his victory over the savage and made that victory and his vindication known to the masses. Hallelujah.
The Lord—at least in the sight of the native nations—was not a God they wanted to get to know. This acculturation process made no sense to the native population. “Indian Removal” was a fancy phrase that meant “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Some of my ancestors went west in 1838 on the Trail of Tears. America still cannot effectively deal with its successful dispensation of genocide. Your fourth, eighth, or 12th grader probably isn’t getting much about that in school. Wonder why. Is it because God has made known his victory?
Earlier this year, we in the National Congress of American Indians stated as a guiding principle that we would continue to strive toward a benefit for “the seventh generation.” How, we ask, can we influence the world for the better so that our descendants—seven generations down the line—can capture and harvest what we have sown?
My father’s grandmothers, going back through the generations, were of a peace clan. And that includes Mary—one of those stalwart Cherokee that traveled the Trail of Tears. Like her neighbors Chief John Ross and his wife, Quatie—Mary made a conscious decision to support her people and start over in a distant place. Quatie died—in a boat—on the journey after (legend has it) giving her only blanket to a sick child.
It seems to me that the only real victory we can know is that which stems from peace and kindness. God’s vindication “in the sight of the nations” tarries because we have yet to put aside the sword.