Sing it out with thanksgiving and join the cause!

Spiritual Reflections

“Sing to the Lord a new song!” The psalms, those songs of old, command us to do just that five different times (96:1; 33:3; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1). With great exuberance and jubilation these ancient songwriters assessed their current physical and material well-being — or lack of it — and placed that assessment before their God, alongside their joys and sorrows, their fears and anxieties, their memories and hopes. Their message implicitly acknowledged what the prophet Isaiah made explicit: “Look!  I am doing a new thing [says the Lord]!” This to a people weary from the seemingly relentless tyranny and oppression, pain and humiliation from the powers that be.

In recent weeks we have witnessed much indicating that there may indeed be “a new thing” brewing in our cities and in our country. Even as elected officials continue to try to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, as well as those with special needs, immigrants, and the poor; even as we learn news of Russian interference in our elections; even as environmental protections expire — even amid all of this chaos, we see evidence of the new thing:  women are finding the courage to speak about their experiences of harassment and finding that their stories are believed; people are taking to the streets by the thousands demanding change; and, most recently, our children are stepping up to lead the charge against gun violence.

Songs accompany this movement. Old songs of protest and solidarity and faith have found new life in marches and demonstrations. “We shall not, we shall not be moved,” sang those participating in the Charlotte Women’s March, “We’re fighting for our bodies! We shall not be moved!” And at vigils supporting immigrants and refugees, we hear “We’re fighting deportation!” A week later, marching on MLK Day, we hear not only “Black and white together!” but also “No more incarceration, we shall not be moved!” And then, gathered together to decry the hateful vandalism of an inclusive church, we sing “Gay and straight together, we shall not be moved.”

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Jimmy Fallon sang a new song recently with an updated version of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” It begins with a call to action:

Come gather round people wherever you roam
And admit that our country don’t feel like our home
And that silence speaks louder than those who condone
If a tweet to you is worth favin’
Then lift up your voices and put down your phones
For the times they are a changin’

The last verse sums up the prophetic charge:

Come leaders who bully like internet trolls
We’ll curse you with four-letter words “love” and “hope”
For we will go high even when you go low
The order is rearranging
For you have the power, but we have the vote
The times they are a-changin’

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Last October, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir performed at my church, First United Methodist in Charlotte, as part of their Lavender Pen Tour. They selected places in the Deep South that were particularly known for discriminatory practices against LGBTQ folks and allies, and brought their songs of healing and grace — light in the darkness. At each venue they sang, with renewed urgency, Holly Near’s classic “Singing for Our Lives”:

We are a gentle, angry people
and we are singing, singing for our lives
We are a justice-seeking people
and we are singing, singing for our lives
We are young and old together
and we are singing, singing for our lives
We are a land of many colors
and we are singing, singing for our lives
We are gay and straight together
and we are singing, singing for our lives
We are a gentle, loving people
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We sing this hymn of faith and hope at our church, even as we acknowledge the pain and injustice prevalent in our community. We sing it as a new song in response and thanksgiving for the new thing the ever-creating Holy One is doing among us and through us, even as we march and hold vigil.

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