God Is Hip To Our Song

By Ken Woodley

God must be a fan of jazz, a musical form that encourages individual freedom and creativity.

“Sing to the Lord a new song,” we are told in Psalm 98, “for he has done marvelous things.”

But what new song? What new notes? What key is this new song in? Does it have lyrics? If so, what are they? 

We aren’t told. There are pieces of advice, but it’s all very jazzy—and that means a lot of improvisation.

“Shout with joy … lift up your voice … sing to the Lord with the harp … with trumpets and the sound of the horn …”

Fairly standard stuff, in terms of jazz instruments, even though we have no idea what to play.

But then it gets jazzily surreal, a kind of otherworldly jazz-heaven-fusion.

“Let the sea make a noise,” we are advised.

The sea?

And not just the sea but “all that is in it.”

Wow. I’m not sure Miles Davis and John Coltrane could even do that.

But that’s not all.

“Let the rivers clap their hands.”

Okay … um … sure. But rivers don’t have hands.

“And let the hills ring out with joy.”

Please, yes, hills, do so whenever you’re ready. A one and a two and a three…

But what do we do?

We do this:

We play what we feel inside, our new song, our own unique notes and voice.

God is hip to the beat of our different drums.

God cheers on our improvisations, our polyrhythms, and our syncopation as we respond to the very real joys and the very tough challenges of living in a world that often seems fearsomely chaotic.

Life is nothing like the songs in our hymnals. All the notes we will need to sing have not been composed. We don’t even know how many people are going to be in the band, or how long we’ll be playing together.

But that’s okay.

There is a lot we do not know about the new songs we’ll need to play on life’s journey, but we do know what key to play those new songs in.

We play them in the key of God’s grace and love as shown us by Jesus. If we do that the new song will take care of itself.

Jesus makes this clear in today’s Gospel lesson from Luke as he advises those who may face trials and tribulations—arrested and brought before kings and governors to testify.

“Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance,” Jesus tells them. 

Compose nothing.

Trust, in other words, the jazz-like improvisation that will flow through you from the grace and love of God.

“I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict,” Jesus assures us.

So, pick up your trumpet and blow. The new notes will come, and there is no telling who the Holy Spirit will bring by your side to provide harmony.

When that happens, the walls—from Jericho to whatever dark moment surrounds you—will surely come tumbling down, revealing the way out, a path through life’s rubble and debris.

And what about the rivers?

Their clapping hands will be your joyous hill-ringing percussion.


By Ken Woodley

God must be a fan of jazz, a musical form that encourages individual freedom and creativity.
“Sing to the Lord a new song,” we are told in Psalm 98, “for he has done marvelous things.”
But what new song? What new notes? What key is this new song in? Does it have lyrics? If so, what are they?
We aren’t told. There are pieces of advice, but it’s all very jazzy—and that means a lot of improvisation.
“Shout with joy … lift up your voice … sing to the Lord with the harp … with trumpets and the sound of the horn …”
Fairly standard stuff, in terms of jazz instruments, even though we have no idea what to play.
But then it gets jazzily surreal, a kind of otherworldly jazz-heaven-fusion.
“Let the sea make a noise,” we are advised.
The sea?
And not just the sea but “all that is in it.”
Wow. I’m not sure Miles Davis and John Coltrane could even do that.
But that’s not all.
“Let the rivers clap their hands.”
Okay … um … sure. But rivers don’t have hands.
“And let the hills ring out with joy.”
Please, yes, hills, do so whenever you’re ready. A one and a two and a three…
But what do we do?
We do this:
We play what we feel inside, our new song, our own unique notes and voice.
God is hip to the beat of our different drums.
God cheers on our improvisations, our polyrhythms, and our syncopation as we respond to the very real joys and the very tough challenges of living in a world that often seems fearsomely chaotic.
Life is nothing like the songs in our hymnals. All the notes we will need to sing have not been composed. We don’t even know how many people are going to be in the band, or how long we’ll be playing together.
But that’s okay.
There is a lot we do not know about the new songs we’ll need to play on life’s journey, but we do know what key to play those new songs in.
We play them in the key of God’s grace and love as shown us by Jesus. If we do that the new song will take care of itself.
Jesus makes this clear in today’s Gospel lesson from Luke as he advises those who may face trials and tribulations—arrested and brought before kings and governors to testify.
“Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance,” Jesus tells them.
Compose nothing.
Trust, in other words, the jazz-like improvisation that will flow through you from the grace and love of God.
“I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict,” Jesus assures us.
So, pick up your trumpet and blow. The new notes will come, and there is no telling who the Holy Spirit will bring by your side to provide harmony.
When that happens, the walls—from Jericho to whatever dark moment surrounds you—will surely come tumbling down, revealing the way out, a path through life’s rubble and debris.
And what about the rivers?
Their clapping hands will be your joyous hill-ringing percussion.



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