“All faithful singing will sing of the faith we have received in the Gospel” Cantate 2024

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15. October 2022
Psalm 98; John 16:5-15

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Last week the our liturgy gave us joy in response to the Lord’s grace. Today, the liturgy gives us a new song to sing. We began today by singing Psalm 98: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things! His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him. The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.” (Ps. 98:1-2)

Why do we sing a new song to the Lord? Marvelous gifts are ours from His right hand! To speak of the Lord’s right hand is to speak of where Jesus is. The Psalm anticipates the Ascension themes to the Father’s right. The right hand is the place of all power and authority. That Christ sits at God’s right hand fulfills the promise that all our enemies would be put under His feet, that is, defeated. This is our cause for rejoicing. Christ has defeated our mutual enemies of sin, death, world, devil, and hell and given us victory from the Father’s right hand.

To sing a new song presumes there is an old song. Not many Sabbaths ago, we heard one of these old songs. The Lord commanded Moses to teach Israel a song in response to their idolatry, recorded in Deuteronomy. “Therefore Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:18-22) You can hear the full song of Moses taught Israel in Deuteronomy 32. It’s not the sort of song you’d want to sing in our liturgy. It is the song of God’s righteous judgment and wrath. 

For example, one stanza goes like this: “For a fire is kindled in My anger, And shall burn to the lowest hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.‘I will heap disasters on them; I will spend My arrows on them. They shall be wasted with hunger, Devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction; I will also send against them the teeth of beasts, With the poison of serpents of the dust.The sword shall destroy outside; There shall be terror within For the young man and virgin, The nursing child with the man of gray hairs.” (Deut. 32:22-25) It’s a devastating song of judgment against sin, unbelief, and the world’s corruption. It’s a song of the Law in its full severity.

Another “old song” is found in Isaiah 6, a portion of which we sing in the Sanctus. Isaiah was given a vision of heaven in the year that King Uzziah died. He saw the Lord upon His throne, surrounded by the Seraphim who cried to one another this song: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3) The door posts shook at the voice of him who cried out. The whole house of heaven was filled with smoke. Isaiah rightly was terrified. He cried out in response to this song: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) For Isaiah, this is not a revelation of God’s grace and mercy but a revelation of His terrifying glory that fills this earth with judgment. Isaiah does not yet know of the forgiveness of sins, and so he still fears judgment. 

Today, we are given to sing a new song. The old song of wrath and judgment, terror and despair is silenced with the text and melody of the new song. The old song wasn’t wrong, so to speak, but rather, it didn’t tell the whole story. 

For example, you probably don’t consider the song of the Sanctus that we sing every Lord’s day to be of the old but rather of the new. That’s because when we sing the Sanctus, we sing the whole song. Rather than simply sing, “The whole earth is full of His glory,” we sing, “Heaven and earth are full of His glory. For in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, the way to the eternal dwelling of God is open to us. Heaven’s book is opened to us, and our names are written in it. And then we follow with the Advent song, “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” While Isaiah stood in fear, we are now given to dwell in God’s presence without terror. For we have a Savior who has answered our prayer of Hosanna, Lord save us, and given us access to the Father through His blood.

If the old song is one of judgment and wrath, the new songs would be one of forgiveness and mercy. The songs of St. John’s Apocalypse ring out with this song: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures [sang], “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:13-14)

This is the song of the church, the song of the Lamb of God. This song doesn’t end with wrath and judgment but follows with the new song of redemption by the blood of the Lamb. We sing this song each Lord’s day in the canticles of the Gloria in Excelsis and the Agnus Dei. We sing, “O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takes away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us!” We sing, “O Christ, Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, hear our prayer!” 

The words to our song are not canned lyrics or hypothetical well-wishes. We sing with the saints and angels because their song is our song. We are of one faith, one baptism, and one Lord, after all. This song permeates the song of our liturgy. This new song is the golden thread woven into all our hymns. All the songs we sing are saturated with the lyrics of the new song of salvation. We proclaim as we sing the glory of our Lord and His gift of salvation that we see by faith. What we see is confessed by our lips in joyous singing. 

The church sings the new praise song that it receives through faith through the Holy Spirit. We sing of Christ, the Lamb of God, sitting at the right hand of glory, whose blood cleanses us from all sins and sanctifies us to be the people of God. Everything the church sings in the faith will have this new song as its heart and foundation. Everything we sing and do flows from the confession of Jesus, the Lamb, whose blood washes and makes us clean. All faithful singing will sing of the faith we have received in the Gospel. 

Dear Christians! “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things!” (Ps. 98:1-2) Confess and sing the doxology, the song of praise to God. Today, you have been brought to stand before God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness by Holy Baptism, and given to eat and drink Christ’s body and blood for your forgiveness and the strengthening of your faith. Now, you sing by faith through the Word and work of the Holy Spirit. Soon, you will sing with the whole host of heaven, all of God’s people. Christ has gained us victory on the cross and through the grave. Sing this new song! The Lord has made known to you His work of salvation. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin