Sermon for November 7, 2010

Psalm 149 (All Saints’ Day Observed—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 7, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text for All Saint’s Sunday is the Psalm of the Day, Psalm 149

Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!

I enjoy music.  It’s pretty hard for me to go through the day with silence in the background.  I’ve usually got something playing in the office and in the car.  I’m not a talk-radio guy; it needs to be music.  I like different kinds of music.  I like some really old music: music from the days of the Middle Ages, [play track Oralndo di Lasso].  I enjoy classical music, [play track Trumpet Vol.]  I like good choral arrangements. [play track For the Beauty of the Earth].  I like newer music too.  I don’t mind a little country. [Play track 9 to 5]  But you can’t go wrong with my favorite era, music from the 1980s—a little Bon Jovi for example. [Play track Livin’ on a Prayer].  Sadly, music from that decade now plays on WDRC as “goodtime oldies.”  What’s up with that?

In the Bible we find music, too.  The Book of Psalms is the hymnal of God’s people.  The Psalms are songs, Scripture that was meant to be sung.  Psalm 149, our text, is one of those songs of praise to the Lord.  But there are other songs in the Bible.  Luke records the song of Mary, the Magnificat, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in the God my Savior.”  Luke shares with us the song of Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.”  We have the song of the angelic host at the Nativity of our Lord, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

In Psalm 149, the writer mentions in the first verse, “Sing to the Lord a new song.”  If there is a new song to be sung, wouldn’t there be an old song that came first?  You bet!  The people of God, or as our text says, “the assembly of the godly,” has been singing to the Lord for a long time.  God’s saints, His Church, are people who continually sing the Lord’s praises.  And the saints started singing their “old song” way back in the Book of Exodus.  After the Lord brought His people of Israel out of Egypt, He led them through the Red Sea and destroyed Pharaoh and his army.  Exodus 15 records, “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, ‘I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea. The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power, your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.’” (Exodus 15:1-6)

This “old song” celebrated God’s great saving act in the Old Testament.  God rescued His people from slavery in Egypt and saved them from Pharaoh and his army.  Psalm 106 picks up the old song again, “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! . . . Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and he led them through the deep as through a desert. So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy. And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.” (Psalm 106:1, 7-12)

So that’s the “old” song celebrating God’s redemption for His saints, His holy people.  Now we have to take a look at the “new” song as we find it in the Psalms.  The new song celebrated God’s bringing His people Israel back from exile.  It was another saving, redeeming act God accomplished on behalf of His people.  Israel was punished for their sins of rejecting the Lord as their God.  That punishment was their exile into the countries of Assyria and Babylonia.  But God, as He had promised, rescued His people and brought them back to the land He had promised them so that at just the right time He would send His Son to be the Savior of not just Israel, but the whole world.  Psalm 149 praises God for restoring His people and defeating their enemies.

We might call the old song of God’s people version 1.0 and the new song version 1.5.   But the people of God were anxiously waiting for the final version of the church’s song, version 2.0.  Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people remembered the Lord’s great saving act of delivering them from slavery at the hands of the Egyptians.  They sang the old song in praise to God for His salvation and redemption.  Then a newer version was created when the Lord brought His people out of captivity and restored them as His people: “Praise the Lord!  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the church of the godly.”  But listen to what Martin Luther commented on regarding our text.  “This psalm in reality belongs in the New Testament.”  (New Song Version 2.0!)  “It calls itself a new song to sing to the King of Zion, whom they should praise on their couches, that is, in the church where they come together.”

Both the Song of Moses in Exodus and the new song celebrating Israel’s redemption from exile in the psalms were leading to the New Testament song of God’s redeemed people in Jesus Christ the promised Messiah-Savior.  The Church’s New Song 2.0 is the celebration song of God redeeming Israel and the whole world from the power of Satan, sin, and death through Jesus.  It’s the song begun in Revelation 5 and continued in our First Reading from Revelation 7.  Listen to New Song 2.0!

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’ . . . (Revelation 5:8-10)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’” (Revelation 7:9-13)

Through His sacrificial death on the cross, the Lord Jesus, the very Lamb of God, bought with His shed blood people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  Through His death on the cross Jesus Christ has won our complete forgiveness for all sins.  He has rescued us from the tyranny of the devil and saved us from eternal death and condemnation.  Our time of exile from God is over.  Our time of slavery to sin and Satan has ended.  We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ.  We are saved, set free, forgiven.  And so we sing the new song of the Church with joy in victory as the whole people of God, saints through Jesus Christ.

The word “saint” means holy one.  The blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from all sin, makes us holy to stand before God.  In the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic Church, we stand united by the blood of Jesus with all of God’s holy people—those who sang song versions 1.0 and 1.5!  United in faith in Christ, we join together with the saints on earth and the saints already with Christ in heaven for Version 2.0 in praise of our God and Savior, the Lamb who was slain and is risen and ascended!

You and I are part of this new song, the song of God’s people!  We rejoice with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven in celebration of God’s greatest saving act in human history, our rescue from sin and death.  We sing this new song of victory and praise to God in Christ as we await the day of our Savior’s Second Coming in glory.  We sing this new song with our lips in hymns and psalms and spiritual songs.  We sing this new song with our hearts of faith in Christ each time we confess our sins and receive His holy absolution.  We sing the new song of Christ when we receive His Word and share His Gospel with others.  In Christ, our lives become a song of praise to our Savior as we await Jesus’ coming again.

When our Lord comes, He will create a new heaven and a new earth for His bride, the Church, the very saints of God in Christ.  It will be the home of righteousness where we and all of God’s people in Christ will live with resurrected, glorified bodies and purified souls with the one Triune God Himself.  Then we will sing the eternal stanzas of the new song of praise to our God and to the Lamb who sits on the throne with a “Hallelujah Chorus” like none other.  [Play track Hallelujah Chorus conclusion] Amen.