Easter 5 2021 Cantate
May 2, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
“Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.” So begins Psalm 98 which served as our introit this morning. If you remember the Introit is the Entrance hymn of the Divine Service proper, a hymn that is taken from the Psalms. The purpose is to announce the theme of the day with the particular emphasis on the antiphon, the opening and closing verse. Every Sunday has its own Introit, its own unique theme, and many Sundays are named after the Introit. And so today is called Cantate Sunday, or “Sing” Sunday. On this the 5th Sunday of Easter, this Introit from Psalm 98 puts us in harmony with the whole Easter message that the Lord has done marvelous things. He has made known His victory over sin and death and revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
And so as God’s people, we are called to sing, to make a joyful noise to the Lord! Because God loves singing! Singing is part of who we are. There is a quote sometimes attributed to St. Augustine, “He who sings prays twice.” This is why the book of Psalms is often called the prayer book of the Bible, or sometimes even the hymn book of the Bible.
And so we sing a “new song.” We join our voices with the Church of God throughout the world and even throughout time. Even just the songs we sing today range from 500 years old to about 50 years old. Some were composed in German, in Latin, in English, one even in Swahili. Our song joins with the song of every saint from every age, the new song of Christ’s holy people, joining the Word of God to melody. The Gospel is a new song, a radically different voice from all other human cries. That’s why in church we don’t just sing any kind of songs or in any kind of way. This is the main thing that separates the church’s song with the world’s. The Church’s song is based on God’s Word, it is a prayer of praise, of thanksgiving, of supplication, of proclamation repeating back to God what is most true and sure. With psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs we joyfully confess all that God has done for us, declaring the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. As we join our voices to the new song to the Lord, we sing of His revealed righteousness that comes when He works by His right hand and bares His arm, of Him working salvation upon the cross and by the power of His resurrection.
What wonderful and picturesque language we have in this song – God’s right hand and His holy arm. This is language found throughout Scripture. Consider the latter part of Isaiah carries the dominant theme of the return of God’s people after the Babylonian captivity, of rescue and delivery to God’s kingdom. Several times in Isaiah there is reference to God’s “arm,” a metaphor often used for salvation and in connection to God’s holiness. The image of God’s arm, which is first used in Scripture in the context of God delivering His people in the Exodus, was in this way being applied to their return from their exile in Babylon. In each case, the salvation of God’s people is brought about by the flexing of God’s muscles, as it were, in the public sight of the nations of the world.
But ultimately, the revelation of God’s righteous rescue in Exodus and from the Babylonian captivity is setting the scene for something greater. Psalm 98, and thus our continuous song, find its ultimate fulfillment in the literal hands and arms of God Himself pierced by nails and laid bare upon the cross. This salvation is very specific in respect to time and place. God has become incarnate only once. Only in Jesus Christ has God become man. Only once has the price for our sin been paid. God saves us by the forceful intrusion of His holiness into history, His right hand and His holy arm that works salvation for Him. It’s the revelation of God’s arm taking charge of a fallen creation and yanking you ought of the grip of sin and from the power of the devil.
The substance of the Gospel and our great need for rescue out of our sinfulness is not some theory about God or even some set of standards by which we are to live. The Holy Spirit takes what is Christ’s and declares it to you. God’s salvation is not something that is simply announced but a produced reality. The Word actually works, the implanted Word which is able to save your souls. In saving, God truly does certain things, “marvelous” things, and He reveals His righteousness to the nations by His right hand and His holy arm He works salvation.
Notice that – to the nations! This good news isn’t just for you but for the world. God wishes the whole world to join in singing the new song of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. The Psalmist first directs our singing to God and then has us sing to others. The Psalmist even calls creation to join in the praise, for as Romans 8:19 says that creations itself waits the final day or redemption. When that day comes and the Lord returns on the Last Day, all effects of sin will be gone and the created realm will enjoy the new heavens and the new earth.
Consider this today in the rest of the songs that we sing both in why we sing and what we are singing and what your singing confesses to the world. If you come to church and you dredge through a song and act bored and keep looking at your watch waiting for it to be over, why would anyone ever want to be a Christian. But when you take the Word of God upon your lips with the faith that great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel, that the Lord Himself is your strength and your song, the music stirs heart as the Word stirs the soul. Music that carries along the Word which speak God’s Law and Gospel and express our faith’s response to the salvation God has worked in Christ Jesus. He remembers His love and His promises to His people and He acts upon it! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!