(First published July 6, 2015.)
Sometimes I ask people a simple question: “What’s working?” Sometimes I say, “Talk about a time when things worked.” Sometimes, when people are in the middle of confessing the sins of others, I say, “What’s good about them?”
Often when I do that, the mood shifts. People that were stuck on one side of the story begin to see the other. People who are irretrievably negative usually walk away.
I don’t ask these questions often (enough), mind you. But sometimes.
Whoever wrote Psalm 96 was all about asking those questions about God. After inviting “all the earth” to “sing a new song” to God, the songwriter invites people to talk about what God has done.
Think about the times that God has rescued you. Talk amongst yourselves. Think about the times that God has shown his hand, or left traces. Think about the sheer glory of God.
That’s how the song begins.
But some of the people I know say, “But what about the exceptions? What about the pain? What about the times that rescue never came, that no traces were evident, that glory was diluted?”
But I think that Psalm 96 isn’t a conversation or an argument or a defense. I think it’s an anthem.
It’s the kind of song that you put on repeat while you are trying to get your heart caught up from disappointment. It’s the kind of song you play during third shift when you are looking sunrise. It’s the kind of song you play when you need to remember the framework that gives you support.
It’s the kind of song you sing to yourself.
And it’s the kind of song that needs to be heard, not read. On paper, it’s repetitious. It needs to be edited.
But out loud, in the middle of the night, it’s courage.