“Sing God a new song, for God has done marvelous things…” – Psalm 98:1
Some church folk would rather drink battery acid than sing a new hymn. And it’s not just contemporary music they resist: even an unfamiliar traditional hymn has them bracing for the fall of civilization. Sing something new? Oh, the humanity! It’s like suggesting they dance sky-clad in the moonlight on the village green.
Yet Scripture commands it: Sing God a new song! Why? Because God has done marvelous things. And God keeps doing them, bending history’s moral arc towards justice, inspiring movements of liberating hope, sending prophets to stand between tyrants and the poor; freely saving, mending, making joy and making peace. No, the same old songs won’t cut it. Only new songs are adequate to the vast, accomplished grace around us.
Of course, scripture isn’t demanding that we scrap every hymn composed before 2016. Our psalmist waxeth metaphorical here, and so do I. It isn’t about new songs as such. It’s about the nimbleness of our imaginations, the agility of our souls, the creativity of our faith. It’s about whether we look, act, and sound like we belong to an original God who makes mercy new every morning, or to a tatty old deity who dozed off after creating and hasn’t done much since.
Worn-out, threadbare songs suit a worn-out faith in a threadbare God. The singing that scripture commands is the sound made by people for whom life is all astounding gift, whose alert hearts register the vibrations of mercy thrumming everywhere, who love the adventure of marvelous grace, and fear nothing at all except missing the ride.
New lives sing new songs, O God. Refresh me now, and let me sing original praise for your wonderful love.
Small Group Discussion
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Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.