November 13, 2016 – Music and the Psalms Week 4 – Folk/Country Music and Psalms of Repentance & Spirituals and Psalms of Reassurance/Hope

Psalm 51, Psalm 23, & Psalm 24

Today we are covering what I see as two sides of the same coin when we consider Psalms of Repentance and Psalms of Reassurance/Hope.  On the first side is our need for repentance.  Often we just don’t want to talk about this.  We don’t want to think about the bad stuff we’ve done in our lives.  Perhaps we consider our actions to be lesser sins than everyone else’s so we’re good – we don’t need to ask forgiveness.  Understandably this is an uncomfortable area for us to dive into, yet as we are able to humble ourselves, we can turn to the other side of that same coin and hold onto the reassurance and hope of God’s eternal love for us all.

As we continue this sermon series on Music and the Psalms we will first consider Psalms of Repentance compared with the genre of folk/country music. You have a blurb in your bulletin about the history of this genre, and we see its continued popularity today, although some will argue that the style of country music today varies greatly from its roots.  Often in country music, similar to Psalms such as what was read for us in Psalm 51, we find a need for repentance.  What does it mean to repent?  The literal meaning is ‘to turn around.’  We stop doing the wrong thing and we start doing the right thing.  Take a listen to this classic country song from one of the legends of this genre, Hank Williams, “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” [Play video]

In this area of repentance, at times we recognize our own sin and at times we need someone else to point it out to us.  Let’s take a look at Psalm 5. [Read Psalm] David wrote this psalm and clearly he recognizes his own need for repentance. He’s done something wrong and he knows it.  The Psalm that was read for us earlier, Psalm 51, notes that Nathan had to point out David’s sin before he repented.  I remember walking over to the church one day and three young men were playing on the playground, only they had somehow maneuvered the two playhouses together and were jumping from one rooftop to the other.  When they saw me they immediately stopped – they knew what they were doing was not safe.  I didn’t need to say a word, and soon after we moved the houses apart again!  This song was written by Steve Earle and is sung here by one of the greats of folk music, Joan Baez. The song is “The Jericho Road.” [Play song.]  Often our loved ones are the ones who point out our wrongdoings and warn us of the need to repent.

Repentance is hard because it requires us to take an honest look at ourselves.  Considering the contentious nature of this year’s election, I wonder if we can take a moment and consider how we view those who did not vote the same as we did.  Perhaps we have said things like, “How can someone be so naïve? How can you not agree with me? What lack of intelligence.”  I have cleaned up these comments, because like you I have heard far worse.  Do we need to repent a little for our thoughts and opinions of others?  Most likely – this may be a regular occurrence depending on how much time you spend driving in traffic!  Martin Luther said he needed to die daily to sin.  Our sinful nature is always a threat to our spiritual walk.

Repentance is needed often, but we need to remember to ask for it.  A more modern country music artist gives us a great warning concerning the temptation to sin and the need to guard against it. Take a listen to Josh Turner here with Randy Travis. [Play “Long Black Train.”] Country Music and Psalms of Repentance remind us that we need to be aware of our sin and humble come before God to ask forgiveness.  Let’s read one more Psalm of Repentance – Psalm 32. [Read Psalm]

What I so love about this review of the Psalms is that our need for repentance is not the end of the story.  When we come to God and seek forgiveness, we are given the reassurance and hope of God’s everlasting love.  We find hope in knowing that there is no sin for which we cannot be forgiven.  There is another side to the repentance coin, and that is hope and reassurance.

The genre of spiritual music is rich in this message of hope.  As we transition from Psalms of repentance to Psalms of hope, let’s listen to the legendary Mahalia Jackson as she sings, “Down by the Riverside.” [Play video]  This particular group of psalms reminds us that there is always hope. Psalms 23 and 24, read for us earlier, include this rich message of hope.  At no time do we need to fear for the fearless One is walking with us.  When we repent, turn around, and follow God, we are basked in hope for a better life, a better world, a better future.  Turn to Psalm 71 and we will read excerpts from this together.  [Psalm 71:1-7]

Let’s face it, things are a bit scary right now. Last week when we lit candles to remember all those who have died this past year, I looked at the number of mass shootings in our country and the senseless loss of life.  We are so angry and bitter right now. Perhaps we have forgotten this message of hope. Perhaps we need to be reminded that God is greater than all our problems and trials.  Jesus was born during the reign of the most cruel and hateful ruler Rome had ever seen. Jesus was crucified by a government official that made it a habit of crucifying anyone who got out of line.  Yet these powerful and hateful rulers could not keep the son of God from rising again just three days after his crucifixion.  Whom do we serve? We serve the God of the Universe, maker of heaven and earth, amen?

We have woven spirituals into today’s worship service because I believe we are in desperate need of a message of hope.  We are closing with the song, “Guide My Feet.”  It is a reminder that when we decide to follow Jesus, the rock of our salvation, we need to be ready to take those faithful steps that are not necessarily part of the norm.  We are given the message of hope that regardless of the corruption and deceitfulness of others, we will serve the Lord.  We are given the choice to care for others or care for only ourselves.  We are given the courage to stand against those that would say the only thing that matters is our personal happiness.  Spirituals challenge us to walk in the ways of God, guarding our tongues, looking for ways to be a positive influence to our children, finding ways to share love instead of hate.  As we close our time today, I would like you to spend time in prayer as this next song is played.  Consider ways in which you may need to repent. Consider God’s incredible and never-ending love for each of us.  Consider this message of hope and reassurance with a reminder to just “Hold On.” [Play video]

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