REFLECTIONS ON A NEW YEAR AND A NEW SONG

O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. {2} Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. {3} Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. {4} For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods. {5} For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. {6} Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. {7} Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. {8} Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts. {9} Worship the LORD in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth. {10} Say among the nations, “The LORD is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.” {11} Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; {12}Let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy {13} before the LORD; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth. (Psalms 96 NRSV)

Old and New! These are inescapable qualities. Newness becomes old. And oldness becomes new, if we are open to newness. This sounds so simple. But, most of us must confess that becoming “new” is one of the most difficult challenges each of us face. Most of us reach a certain point, and we want to remain as we are. Then, there are others of us, who due to illness, or other loss, would love to return to who we were prior to the illness, or prior to the loss.

Is it truly possible for us to become “new” again? Yes, it can happen. And, it does happen. And when it does happen, it’s a miracle!

I was sharing with a Sunday school class the other day a story of a woman, who was widowed, and who lived on one side of a parcel of land, which was separated by her neighbor’s land by a fence. (Sometimes good fences do make good neighbors!) But, as she looked out across her back yard, at the fence which separated her property from that of her neighbor, her feelings of bitterness, anger, and resentment surfaced every time. (In her case, the good fence didn’t help, because the pain and resentment in her were too great). And, according to the story handed down to me, whenever our bitter, angry and resentful widow cooked chicken, she would throw “chicken guts” across her fence into her neighbor’s back yard, as a defiant gesture! (Now, someone has suggested to me, that this bitter woman was simply trying to feed her neighbor’s dog. But, her motives weren’t that pure).

Why do we hold on to anger and resentment? Well, part of why we do it is because when we remain angry, we feel powerful. Anger is a powerful emotion. And, none of us likes to feel helpless, or weak. In fact, weakness is usually despised in our culture (though the Apostle Paul was told by God that God’s power was made perfect in weakness, and that God’s grace was sufficient for Paul—See 2 Corinthians 12:8-9—But this is a whole ‘nother sermon).

Was there no hope for the bitter, angry, resentful woman? Yes, there was. She could let go of her anger, her hurt, and her bitterness, and surrender all of her pain to God—putting it into God’s hands, and asking God to address the things, which had been said and done to her by her neighbor. But, if we take that step, it means we can’t harbor all of those old, powerful angry feelings. (And, in truth, another reason we don’t want to let go of old hurts and anger, is that if we do so, we may feel like we “lost” the war, the altercation, the fight—however one wants to say it. And, in our culture, nobody wants to “lose.”)

But, if we keep all of those hurts inside, our souls become darkened. Our thoughts and perceptions become darkened. This kind of thinking and perceiving can be so pervasive, that joy can be driven out from us! And, no one really wants to lose their joy, do they?

In my own experience, when I have let go of hurts, I have felt “lighter” and been given more energy. (Depression just sucks the life right out of us). I have found that singing hymns of praise has a way of banishing darkness, anger, bitterness—and putting a new spirit within me.

If I had a choice between these two ways of looking at life and people, and the world (and it really is a choice) I would choose to go the way of light and life, and not bitterness and hatred.

God wants our lives to be joy-filled. When we learn to let go of anger and hurt, there can truly be a new day. And, with it, there can be new “song.”

My prayer for all of you who read this column (all 24,000 of you) is that as 2005 gets under way, you will take some time and decide which course you want to follow. Do you want to be old, bitter, resentful and angry? Or do you want to find light and life and to have songs of praise burst from your souls? Choose wisely my friends.

The Waynedale News Staff

Reverend Chris Madison-Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church-Wabash, Indiana

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