New-song singers

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

Composer, songwriter, singer, inventor of instruments, lyre player, dancer - King David of Israel was all these. And much more. His songs, many of which are in the book of Psalms in the Bible, communicate a depth of love for God that has rarely been surpassed in sacred music. They make us feel, intimately, God's healing presence. They take away feelings of vulnerability and grief. It's for good reason that King David became known as "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (II Sam. 23:1).

What gives these psalms such spiritual power? Why have people - from King Saul in his moments of mental anguish to prisoners of war to gravely ill patients to men and women struggling with all sorts of challenges - found comfort, courage, and healing in their words? The Psalmist himself hints at the reason, as he repeatedly reminds his listeners to "sing unto him [God] a new song" (Ps. 33:3).

What is it that constitutes a "new song"? Great lyrics? A different tune? A hip-hop beat? No, it takes more than words, tones, and rhythms to heal people. To uplift and redeem. It takes a life transformed. It takes fresh, spiritual vision.

It's not enough simply to discover truth. One needs to act on it - and then steadfastly live it. As King David did when he begged God's forgiveness after seducing a woman and killing her husband. He promised that if God washed him clean of his "bloodguiltiness," he would sing a new song - with the music of his very life. "Then will I teach transgressors thy ways," he said, "and sinners shall be converted unto thee" (Ps. 51:13, 14).

Regenerated, healed lives. That's something to sing about! Something powerful enough to inspire others and help them put out brushfires - or even bonfires - of self-centeredness, avarice, sensuality, depression. Or serious illness. Something to reassure them that God, omnipotent intelligence, does indeed rule the universe. And that, no matter how much it may seem otherwise, God's creation is actually unspoiled, undiminished. In fact, it's perfect. And perfectly spiritual.

A song that voices such things is actually "old" as well as "new." As old as truth itself. And as new as the singer's own faith and life-transformation.

You and I can sing a "new song" even if we can't carry a tune. Actually, our lives are God's song. They resonate with His beauty, His sweetness, His might. And we can always have the melody that's ours - and ours alone - to sing. According to Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, we can never lose God: "To-day my soul can only sing and soar. An increasing sense of God's love, omnipresence, and omnipotence enfolds me" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 174).

The contemporary spiritual landscape is beginning to hum with new-song singers, people whose revised lives put out a very special kind of melody. You can hear these singers in churches, classrooms, stores, athletic fields, construction sites - and at rock and hip-hop concerts.

Take a look at the latest singer-songwriters. You will see that some of these artists have come to a "new song" through real-life experiences - sometimes very tough ones. And they're sharing their spiritual discoveries with the world.

Hip-hop queen Lauryn Hill, for instance, has recently experienced a dramatic spiritual turnaround. She'd been desperately unhappy and afraid to pray. Finally, though, she turned to God. And He "removed all the negativity. Quicker than a snap" (Rolling Stone, Feb. 18, 1999). The result was her bold smash-hit CD "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." "I took back my soul," she intones there, "And totally let my creator control/ The life which was his to begin with."

Hill won five Grammys for "Miseducation." In her acceptance speech, she read from Psalm 40, which includes these words: "He [God] hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it,... and shall trust in the Lord."

For new-song singers, there could be no greater happiness than to help someone else trust God - and to sing for Him.

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