Reflection: Sing to the Lord

by | Nov 4, 2019

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.

Psalm 98:4-5

It feels like we are experiencing the change in seasons (yes, we do have seasons in Southern California), and we are making the turn towards the holidays.  A week before Thanksgiving, we will have the last Presbytery meeting of 2019, when we consider plans for next year, including the budget and elections of Presbytery leaders for 2020, as well as remembering our loved ones who have passed on to the Lord this last year.  We will also elect our commissioners and Young Adult Advisory Delegate for next summer’s General Assembly in Baltimore.  We have only one ruling elder with a submitted nomination, so if anyone wants to be an alternate, that would be nice to have just in case.  And we have heard that a young person is interested in being a YAAD, but we haven’t seen the paperwork yet, so there might be a possibility of going to Baltimore if you’re 17-23 years of age on the first day of GA, June 20, 2020.

This fall I have been preaching more than usual.  I often preach during the summer (a few churches take me up on the offer to preach for free pulpit supply, or just to hear the latest from the presbytery), but I am finding myself preaching more weeks than not, at least through November.  I’ve had the opportunity to try some different ways to proclaim the word.  I believe that we should use whatever approach helps get the word across most effectively to a particular community of faith.  At one church, I was asked to preach on 1 Kings 12, the events that led to the division of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel, which is a major challenge if the church isn’t well-versed in the Bible.  I ended up doing a history/geography lesson, with the help of maps and artwork to attempt to draw the narrative thread from Jacob and the 12 Tribes of Israel, to David, to Rehoboam and Jeroboam, to Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  Thank God for technology!

Yesterday I preached at the Korean-language worship service at PPC.  I was happy to do this because I had always wanted to express in worship my shame and regret that the people of Korea suffered so greatly from Japanese imperialism.  After worship, I was able to hear from some of the elders how the current state of politics in Korea and Japan have revived some of these old conflicts, but we are thankful that political rhetoric does not impact personal relationships, especially among Christians, and in the United States we share a similar minority status that softens any remaining differences in our heritage.  (I also shared how some Japanese have taken DNA tests that reveal how many of us have some Korean blood, so we’re not so different after all!)

I am grateful for the music ministry of PPC’s Korean Language Ministry.  They have a great praise combo (with keyboard, guitars, trumpet, and a nifty electronic drum set that is very versatile and not as overpowering as some traditional drum sets).  We also got to hear from the children, which is always a joy.  And their Trinity Choir is excellent, having made a splash recently at the Korean Presbyterian Conference music festival.  One of the growing connections between the English and Korean ministries at PPC is when the two chancel choirs join voices. 

I appreciated the Trinity Choir especially as they sang after the prayer of confession.  The melody and their voices expressed the gracious mercy of God in a lovely way.  But I was especially happy to hear an offertory solo by the choir director, Kayla Kim, who has a transcendent voice.  I confess that there have been times when I am thankful for beautiful music to follow the sermon, so that if the gospel isn’t heard through my faulty preaching, at least the folks will experience the awe of the glory of the Lord through the music! 

The days of the “worship wars” seems to have passed away some, for which I am very glad.  I do believe that the best explanation for the conflicts over worship music is the great power of music to touch our souls in ways that words cannot.  In our rather word-heavy Reformed worship style, music is often the only times our worship reaches beyond the intellect.  For myself, I would hate to limit our worship life to any single approach to music.  Instead, as with different approaches to preaching, the music we sing must serve to support and communicate the gospel for each particular context.  Just as language helps or hinders the understanding of the gospel message, so can music take us more deeply into worship, or confound or distract us from our focus on the Lord.

As we look ahead to the holidays, I expect that many of our churches will express our thanksgiving, Advent expectations, and Christmas joy through music.  Thank God for the blessed opportunity to join our voices with all the earth, the lyre and the horn, the sea and the hills, as we sing praises to our God!

And please continue to pray for Twila French, who is working from home during her recovery from knee replacement surgery that is more painful than was anticipated.  (Karen Berns is also having this surgery, so I pray that her recovery is not too painful.)  And prayers for Mark Carlson, who lost his mother this last week.  Mark and Catharine have been visiting her in New York state, and I am thankful that he has been able to see her several times in her last years.