Scripture: Psalm 25:1-10
Statistically three out of five of us are guilty of doing it, and of that number statistically 77% of us already did it this morning. I am of course talking about singing in the shower. Across genders, somewhere around 60% of people sing in the shower regularly. This is a widespread phenomenon that dates way back. In fact in 1377 an Arab sociologist wrote about how people are more likely to sing in bathhouses. Some social scientists have tried to figure out why this is such a popular activity in the shower, and they did acoustic tests. They discovered that in general bathroom tend to have great acoustics. Showers tend to be enclosed spaces with hard surfaces, this allows the shower singer to hear their voice with fullness and depth. This is added to the fact that the constant background noise of running water makes it so you hear more than your own voice, and it is a perfect recipe to turn everyone into a Celine Dion or Frank Sinatra. Speaking of which, someone even did a study to find out what kind of songs we sing in the shower. The most popular genre of music to sing in the shower is Country, followed by rock music. What I found most odd is that pop music was tied with classic music. How do you sing classical music in the shower? There must be a lot of water Beethovens in the shower going dun-dun-dun.
There is something about music that connects to us unlike anything else in the world. Music imprints itself into our memories, shapes our hearts, and impresses itself on to our souls. For instance, just this past week I was in a store, and a popular song from the 90’s started playing. For a brief instance, I was sixteen again. I was instantly transported back to being a sophomore in high school in my room, listening to the radio, and dealing with the coming of age drama that comes with being a sophomore in high school. Music has a way to take us back doesn’t it? Music is connected into our lives unlike anything else. In fact, our brains are wired for music. Howard Gardner developed something called Multiple Intelligence theory. The concept is that there are seven ways that we are physically wired to learn, and one of those ways is music. Music is unique to other activities, because it lights up brain like almost nothing else does. Nearly every part of our brain is somehow stimulated by music. This truly makes it so that music can connect with us unlike anything else. Last December, several of us got to see this first hand when we went Christmas caroling. When we went to the Methodist Community in Franklin to visit one of our shut-ins Virginia Henry. We sang Christmas Carols in the dining room, and there was a woman there suffering from Alzheimer’s. She had been non-verbal for months, but after we sang Joy to the World she shouted “Amen”. If we are wired for music, it is because God made us that way. It is no mistake then, that the Bible is full of songs. Music is perhaps the primary way that we worship God, and as this morning’s scripture reminds us there are two times to praise God: When we feel like it and when we don’t.
It is hard for us to keep in mind that Psalms are actually songs, they were written to be sung. It is really hard for us to keep this in mind for a couple of reasons. First the linguistic poetry of the words are lost when we translate them into English. For instance, here are the first two verses of this morning’s scripture being sung in their original language.
It is also hard for us to think of them as songs because the emphasis of our religious music has changed. Today’s contemporary songs put a much stronger emphasis on the emotional response. For instance when we sing “Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.” The words and tune create an emotional response. Classic hymnody from the 17th and 18th century put a much greater emphasis on singing our theology. For instance Charles Wesley wrote, “The veil is rent; in Christ alone the living way to heaven is seen; the middle wall is broken down, and all the world may enter in.” That is great theology. It succinctly put into lyrics sound beliefs about how Jesus reunites us with God, but I am guessing hymn 282 Tis Finished! The Messiah Dies does not get sung that often anymore. The songs in the Bible, like this morning’s scripture, can elicit emotion and they can have sound theology, but many of the psalms are narrative in nature. The psalms either recount experiences with God or like this morning’s attempt to put to words how we experience God in the present moment of our everyday lives.
This morning’s scripture is a song attributed to King David, which means it could easily have been written 3,000 years ago. Despite the age, like all of the best songs, it is timeless in how it speaks to us. This psalm hits on major themes that are still relevant to us today. When David writes “do not let me be put to shame nor let my enemies triumph over me”, acknowledges our worldly struggles and the fears we all have. Verse 7 which states, “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways”, acknowledges our imperfection and confesses to the ways that we all have fallen short of the glory of God. This psalm, like many, are honest about life. We are flawed, we have struggles, and we often are on the verge of being overwhelmed by the concerns of our lives. Yet, this psalm reminds us that in the midst of stress, our panic, our trials, and our tribulations God is good and upright. The ways of God are loving and faithful. In him we can our hope, in him there is great mercy and love. God is our savior who will remember us, guide us, and teach us his way. This morning’s scripture is a reminder that in the midst of life, God is with us. It is a reminder that we should acknowledge that and praise God for that reason.
Worship is quite simply turning our hearts and minds to God. We worship God when God is what occupies our thoughts and devotion. We should worship God because God completely redeems us from sins and God provides for us thoroughly. For this reason, the most honest, healthy, and natural response we can make is to praise God. We praise God by simply stating the reasons why we have to worship God. We state who God is, what God has done for us, and what God is able to do. Saint Augustine wrote, “A Christian should be alleluia from head to foot.”
It can be hard to praise God from head to foot every day, of every week, of every year. Sometimes we are distracted, sometimes we are angry, and sometimes we are just worn out. We can get so focused on everything we have to do that praising God slips our mind. It is easy to get caught up for one day, and then one day turns into a week, and a week into a month. Before we know it God seems distant. In the same way we can get angry at God. The psalms have plenty of songs of anger and raw emotion. For instance Psalm 13 begins, “How long Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” In times of distress, in times of loss, in times of uncertainty we have probably all felt like singing that psalm at one time or another. When we feel angry at life, angry at things we cannot control, and we have rage we have not dealt with it is easy for us to direct that towards God. When we do so, it can be very hard to praise and worship God, and over time a wall builds up. Other times we are just tired. We have too much to do, not enough time, and all the while dishes are piling up in the sink and clothes in the hamper. At some point or another we all have times where we feel too worn out torn out to move, too tired to think, and the idea of praising God never really even crosses are exhausted mind. When we are worn out for an extended period, life becomes muted, and we just go through the motions. This includes just going through the motions in our faith as well.
Even when we do not feel like it, ESPECIALLY when we do not feel like it, we need to praise and worship God. We need to because no matter how we feel, God is still worthy of praise and worship. Worshiping God and acknowledging his goodness has practical effects as well. When we focus on God it centers us and helps see what is truly important in life. When we focus on God it eases us. It is hard to be angry and sing about God’s amazing love at the same time. When we focus on God it energizes us, because we are reminded that the creator and sustainer of everything cares enough about us to remember us in our times of raggedness. There is a contemporary praise song called Blessed Be Your Name, and I just love the lyrics. The song is about how no matter what is happening in our lives we can praise God. The bridge of song states “You give and take away, You give and take away. Still my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.” No matter what our lot in in life is at the moment, we should be able to recognize God’s goodness and say “blessed be your name”. God does need us to praise Him, but we need to praise God for our emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
This gets us back to singing, because from the very beginning of Christianity our primary way to worship is through song. It does not matter if we sing our emotions, our theology, or our story music can be an important way to praise and worship God. The very first Methodist hymnal was compiled by John Wesley himself. In it he gave directions for singing. Because it is the type of person he was, these directions can be a bit particular. A few of his instructions though are ones we should be regularly reminded of. Wesley wrote ,”Sing with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead or half asleep; but lift up your voices with strength. Be not afraid of your voice now, nor ashamed of it being heard.” Now as a practical note, to all of you bad singers, I get you. I sing terribly, and I even took choir for two years. I know it is not getting any better. Fortunately, I do not sing to preform and I do not sing for the approval of others. I sing to praise God for myself as an act of worship to the one who sits on the throne. I claim that the Bible says “make a joyful noise to the Lord”, not an on-key noise. John Wesley goes on to his last instruction, “Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually.” As Christians we sing because we are wired to sing and we are wired to worship God, it only makes sense that the two should go together.
Today starts the season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation. It is a time of waiting and hoping as we build up to the coming of the Christ child, the recognition of the reality that God is with us. Advent is a time that we reflect upon the fact that God’s care and provision is so great that he came to this earth, to walk among us and live like us. The best way to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate that is to worship God. There are two times to praise God: When we feel like it and when we don’t. If you are in the land of plenty may you praise God for his goodness, if you feel like you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, may you praise God because he is with you. No matter what you are experiencing in your life, may your heart choose to say Lord blessed be your name. May you praise with good courage, may you raise your voice and sing. Even if it is just singing in the shower, may you praise and worship God every single day of this advent season. May you worship Him because God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good.