Life In His Name - Week 1: Sing
Easter Sunday has come and gone. Last week was amazing. We broke attendance records. We had incredible music, awesome energy. And we proclaimed over and over again through song, prayers, praise and even through the proclamation of the word in the sermon that: Jesus. Is. Risen.
But all of that is over. This is the Sunday after Easter, which is commonly known as Black Sunday, or Cannonball Sunday among pastor-types--when you can fire a cannonball in the sanctuary and not hit a soul.
I was talking to a pastor friend of mine the other day. He said, "I feel drained this week, with a bit of a headache and I can't keep my eyes opened." "Like a hangover?" I asked. "Yes," he replied, "an Easter hangover."
So this seemed like the perfect Sunday to start a new series on what it means to live into the hope of the Resurrection. That was also a pretty bad non sequitur.
Seriously, I think it's the perfect Sunday to ask a very important question: Jesus is Risen, now what? How do we live as followers of the risen Christ? We celebrated like mad that Jesus was raised from the dead, but what does that mean to us in our every day experience? What do we do now until Easter arrives again?
I believe that we are Resurrection People called to live life in the name of Jesus. That's going to be the basic idea that we're going to be coming back to again and again over the next four weeks. You and I were meant to lead abundant, purpose-filled, joyous, intense, engaging lives. If you didn't know this about you, then now you do. This is your destiny as a Resurrection Child of God.
Several years ago, I was watching Pope Benedict's mass in New York City during a papal visit. One of the things he said at the mass struck me and has been with me ever since. He said, "Those who have hope, must live different lives." I love this. The inherent by-product of a life lived in hope is that it will be different from the lives of those who have none.
So what does Resurrection life... hope-filled life look like? Well, I think it looks a whole lot like joy--and we're going to be exploring over the next month all of the ways that we can experience joy in the Resurrection by singing, dancing, playing and living.
Today I want you to hold on to this very important truth: "Living in the name of Jesus makes you long to sing a new song." Living a Resurrection life--in the name of the Risen Christ makes you long to sing a new song.
Do you have a favorite place you like to sing? Some people love to sing in the shower. If their shower was a recording studio, they would be famous. Others love to sing in their car. I'm one of those people. In fact, I am pretty stinking awesome at singing in the car, especially if the radio is turned up too loud for me to hear myself.
What makes us take such great joy in singing--in holding up a hair brush or a bar of soap like a microphone and belting out your favorite songs. I believe that there is a reverence, an awareness of the sacred in all of us--humming just below the surface. And this reverence is rooted in joy, and we all can feel it when we are being our best selves.
Why do we share this as human beings? Archbishop Desmond Tutu once wrote that all human beings share what Africans call ubonto botho" the essence of our humanity, a connection, an energy between us. It's almost like the reverence that is humming within us, is connected to something that is humming or playing outside of us--something that we all can hear at some level.
It makes me wonder---"What if what we're responding to is a song--a divine song that is playing all of the time, all around us?"
You would probably think I was a bit kooky, I imagine. A touchy-feely type who just wanted to sit in the corner, meditate on a pillow and become one with the Universe.
But then I would take you to the Bible, and to Zephaniah 3:17:
17 The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
The Lord your God is with you... he will take great delight in you... he will rejoice over you with singing...
The oracle or prophecy of Zephaniah ben Cushi was pretty awful. It was an imagined future where the people of God endured great hardship because of their broken covenant with God. It wasn't a prediction, as much as it was a vision. The prophet Zephaniah was saying, because you took this route, because you decided to live outside of God's promises, this is what you have to look forward to--and it wasn't awesome.
But after all of the gloom and doom, the prophet declares something incredible in chapter 3. "Sing, daughter Zion," he proclaims, the hardship will come to an end. It won't last forever. Or to quote one of my favorite movies of all time--The Crow--"It can't rain all of the time."
The vision that Zephaniah offers is something beautiful. The Lord your God, the malek yisra-el Yahweh" is in your midst. God is all around you. God will take great delight in you. He will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing. The image here is wonderful, like a mother holding her child, comforting her, singing her, giving her solace. God is always near and God is singing... always singing...
It's God, my friends, who is the humming and thrumming outside of us. God is singing all around us and over us--waiting, wanting us to join in.
I am going to try a little social experiment using karaoke.
What makes us forget who we are, what we can or can't do? Most of us can't sing worth a darn. We couldn't carry a tune if it had handles and weighed two and a half pounds. What makes us want to join in the joy happening around us? We were connected then all of us--what Desmond Tutu called the ubunto botho. There was reverence humming in our hearts and a song of joy playing all around us. What makes us want to sing at the top of our lungs?
Could it be the realization that there's something beautiful and creative and wonderful going on around us? That God is near. That God in Christ is making all the world new? That Jesus is risen and because Jesus is risen anything is possible?
Living in the name of the risen Jesus makes you long to sing a new song, doesn't it? We all feel this. Just like we felt the song before, and wanted to join in and shout "Bam, Bam, Bam, so good... so good!" The Lord is near beloved. The risen Christ is near.
I remember long ago my mom asked my son Jackson when he was little if he knew what God looked like. Jackson thought about it for a while and then said, "God, is blue and white." Come on! He thought of the biggest, most incredible, most omnipresent thing he could think of---the great big sky---and he said, THAT has to be what God looks like.
We need to open our eyes to the Almighty. We need to open our ears to hear the Savior's voice. The presence of God in Christ is all around us--he is close. And he delights over us, and he sings over us. He sings over us.
The song is playing around us, beloved. We can't be afraid to sing along. Sing along with the God-song all around you. Sing to the top of your lungs.
Because living in the name of Jesus makes you long to sing a new song.