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Monday, April 20, 2015

Today’s Reading | Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,
     for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
     have gained him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
     he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
     to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
     the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
     break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
     with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
     make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
     the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
     let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
     to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
     and the peoples with equity. (NRSV)

Have you ever heard of a child refusing to sing “Happy Birthday” because he or she had not properly “warmed up” his or her voice that day? No! Children don’t sing for the polished quality of their product; they sing to express! They can’t stop themselves! I sincerely hope you have had the blessing of hearing a child sing a song that he is making up on the spot. They can go on forever—literally fifteen or sixteen verses of mindless melody. I love it! This is pure and simple expression without preparation or evaluation—the same “singing” I think the psalmist intends when writing in Psalm 98, “Sing to the Lord a new song.”

Notice how the psalmist doesn’t implore you to “Practice, audition, rehearse as an ensemble, memorize, and then sing to the Lord.” The psalmist tells us to “Sing,” with no consideration for how we feel about our voices or how appropriate the song might be to the occasion. Even the seas, hills, and floods are asked to sing!

My profession provides me the pleasure of listening to children young and old sing every day. For many years it never occurs to them to listen to themselves or to evaluate their product. Then they do listen, or they listen to someone else who has commented on their singing. And sometimes this causes them to shut down. This is a time in a child’s musical development where support and encouragement are crucial. Regardless of how one sounds, the fear of how they might sound can really damage their ability to sing freely. I think Mark Twain had the right idea when he said, “Sing like nobody’s listening, and live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Dear God, help me to sing—to sing freely, and to sing to your glory. Amen.

Written by Katy Sinclair,
Associate Director of Music for Children and Youth

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