Sing a new song

Published 7:51 pm Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Charles Qualls

Have you ever had a moment that caused you to completely start over? A time when it looked like everything you had thought or believed before wasn’t true?

Meriwether Lewis was chosen to lead the Corps of Discovery Expedition that would run from 1804 through 1806. The U.S. had just completed the Louisiana Purchase. Now, someone would need to explore and chart what was assumed to be a water passage from the East clear across this central part of the young country.

Off they went across the frontier, and eventually on hoping to get through what was then called the Western Territory all the way to the Pacific. The mission was urgent, especially because the U.S. president wanted his own people to map and conquer this wild, uncharted west before Britain or Spain planted their own flags there.

All was going well, until they hit the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. You see, this expedition was based on two very critical and false assumptions. One was that there was a navigable waterway that would stretch all the way across our country from the East to the West Coast. The second false assumption was that the central and western parts of the country would look just like the only known part of the U.S., at that time the already well-inhabited eastern part. Where you and I live.

Picture these explorers carrying their canoes on an already unplanned hike up a vast snow-capped mountain. Every step a back-breaker. This was just a temporary setback, though, before they expected to set their boats right back into the water and row on. With each stride, Lewis was nearing what he expected to be the crowning moment of his expedition and his life. Only at the top, all he could see on the horizon were more mountains.

You’ve been there? We all probably have. As I look back now, sometimes there was a stark moment like the one Lewis and Clark experienced. When the beautiful flat plain, and easily navigable waterways they expected to find, turned out to be more snow-capped mountains ahead.

We concentrated this week on Psalm 98: 1-9, a lectionary passage for the day. The psalmist has a message for us this week. Sing a new song! Best-selling author Tod Bolsinger reflects on the implications of Lewis and Clark’s challenges. He tells us “When our old maps fail us, something within us dies. Replacing our paradigms is both deeply painful and absolutely critical.”

You thought the career path or the job you enjoyed would be the job you had for the rest of your working years. Until it wasn’t. You thought the dominant employer in the area would just always be, and that life would be just as it always had been. Until a mountain popped up on the horizon. You thought the person you married would be the person you stayed married to. Until they weren’t. You thought the good health you enjoyed, or that your loved one enjoyed, would be the good health you would enjoy. Until the accident, the illness or the decline.

We’ve been there, you and me. Is this a Pollyanna call to an untested, unrealistic faith the scripture offers us today? A patch to put over our hurts until they’re all better? Maybe we think we can get back on track through sheer force of will, when we know deep down that we’ve just crested the top and we might see still more mountains?

Notice in the last verses, the psalmist makes a case that even insurmountable forces pale in comparison to God’s remarkable power. Here is what it seems the psalmist has discovered. God may not always intervene in the way we’d like, and at the time we’d like, but God’s power always shows up and shows off at exactly the right time.

Life knocks us around or overwhelms us. It absolutely breaks our hearts at times. Life can get all too real, and can get big all of a sudden. It can isolate and make us feel small. Sing to the Lord a new song. Make a joyful noise to the Lord. Sing a song of praise.

For the very God who has made you walks into the confusion, walks into the overwhelm, even into the deafening quiet or the silencing noise right alongside you. Indeed also sometimes not only within you but ahead of you.

That’s what the psalmist has discovered. Or rediscovered. That’s what the psalmist is tapping into. Maybe we should, too.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.