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Singing a new song

Singing a new song

Psalm 93, 96 (Morning)

Psalm 34 (Evening)

Esther 3:1-4:3 or Judith 5:22-6:4, 10-21

James 1:19-27

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

The opening lines of Psalm 96 are familiar to most of us: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Yet, what does that really mean?

Perhaps you have had the experience I often have when I visit my dear friend’s Episcopal church 110 miles away. I certainly recognize the familiarity of our liturgy, but when we sing, I’m frequently looking at the hymnal and thinking, “Hmmm. We never sing this one at home.” So I kind of fake my way through it and hope I don’t hit too many clinkers in my hesitation and uncertainty singing it.

It just never feels right to sing a new song at first, even if it is in our long-established hymnal. Everyone around looks comfortable, because they are used to singing that song. I’m just hoping I don’t ruin it for them, yet at the same time, it even feels more wrong not to sing.

Our usual modus operandi, I think, is to try out new songs in the privacy of our own homes, particularly in the shower–ever notice how we all sound so much better in the shower? (Perhaps it’s the combination of “the shower walls make us sound more resonant, plus the water drowns us out so we have less fear of others hearing.”)

But, you know, really, most of the new songs of life, we hardly ever get to try them out in the shower first. It’s a lot like visiting that other church–more often, we find ourselves thrust into a situation where it feels like we’re the outsider, and everyone else is way more familiar with it than we are, and we fear we’ve done poorly.

Perhaps the thing to remember is that we are seldom the first person who’s ever had to sing this new song. It’s been in the hymnal for a long time, and those people that seem so comfortable and familiar with it? Well, we never got to see them when it was a new song for them, as well. You never know what they might have to say about that song and the trouble they had with it at first.

Also, odds on we won’t be the last to suddenly learn that new song either. Someone will be trying out that new song any day now, and we can be of some help, even if we’ve only sung it once. Singing new songs under the flowing shower of the waters of our baptism might be more like our shower at home than we think. It might even make us sound and feel okay about it one day!

What is the new song in your life you’re struggling with at the moment? When is a time your familiarity with a song gave a new singer a chance to feel safe trying out that song?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. She occasionally finds time to write about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid.

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