On singing a NEW song to God…

File:David Playing the Harp 1670 Jan de Bray.jpg

“David playing the harp” – and singing a new song to the Lord, as noted below…

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The Bible readings for next Sunday  –  May 10, 2015  –  are: Acts 10:44-48, Psalm 98, 1 John 5:1-6, and John 15:9-17.  Or see Sixth Sunday of Easter.  Some highlights are below. But first – also coming up, on Friday, May 8 – is the Feast Day of Dame Julian of Norwich.

Norwich – pronounced “NOR-idge,” as in “rhymes with porridge” – is a town in England a bit north and a tad east of London.  See Wikipedia.  Getting back to Dame Julian:

She was born in 1342 and died “about” 1416.  As Wikipedia noted, she was an English anchoress regarded as an important early Christian mystic.   (That clunk you heard was a Southern Baptist having apoplexy over the word “mystic.”)

See On a dame and a mystic, one of the first blog-posts I did.  (Back on May 9, 2014, just after On three suitors (a parable) – including  the image at right –  and just before On dissin’ the Prez.)

Getting back to the readings for Sunday, May 10.

The psalm – Psalm 98 – is one of many Bible passages addressing the theme of “sing to the Lord a new song.”  (Not a stale, warmed-over rehash, like what you tend to get by reading the Bible too literally or “fundamentally.”)  On that note see On the DORs for July 20, which asked:

How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, strict and/or limiting manner?  For that matter, why does the Bible so often tell us to “sing to the Lord a new song?”   (For example, Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)

Psalm 98 begins, “Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things.”  In Latin the first words translate “Cantate domino,” which is also the title of a number of church hymns. See  for example Cantate Domino, Sing a New Song! (SAB ). Or see Cantate Domino – Texts and Translations, which noted that the rest of verse one would read, “canticum novum.”  As in, “Cantate Domino, canticum novum.” (Thus endeth the Latin lesson for the day.) 

See also Psalm 98 – Wikipedia, which noted:

Psalm 98 … is one of the Royal psalms [Psalms 9399], praising God as the King of His people.  [In Judaism it’s] the fourth paragraph of Kabbalat Shabbat [and] Verse 6 is found in the Mussaf Amidah on Rosh Hashanah.  [In Christianity it] may be recited as a canticle in the Anglican liturgy…   The Christmas carol Joy to the World is a lyrical adaptation of Psalm 98 written by Isaac Watts and set … to a tune attributed to George Frideric Handel.

Baptism of cornelius.jpgIn Acts 10:44-48, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word,” as Peter spoke.  Peter spoke thus as part of his visit to Cornelius the Centurion. (Shown at left.)  That was prompted in turn by the “vision” that Cornelius had, in Acts 10:1-8.   And in Acts 10:9-16, Peter had a vision of his own, that “what God has cleansed, you must not call uncommon.”  (Or “unclean” in some translations.)

The gist of these readings can be found in Acts 10:34 and 10:35:

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partialitybut in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

(Emphasis added.)  Note that Acts 10:34-42 is usually summarized, “Gentiles Hear the Good News.”  The summary for the May 10 readings is: “Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit.”

In other words, the Good News of Jesus is available to anyone who follows His promise made in John 6:37, that “anyone who comes to me I will never turn away.”  (In other words, the Faith of the Bible is not an exclusive club “for members only,” as some seem to imply.)

The second reading includes 1st John 5:1, which continues that theme:  “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.”  See also Romans 10:9-10:  “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (E.A.)

And the Gospel reading closes with John 15:17, “I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”  That’s as opposed to the constant bickering and fault-finding so prevalent these days.  In other words, as a Christian you’re not supposed to go around criticizing others for the “speck” in their eye while ignoring the “beam” in your own.  See On “holier than thou,” which includes a link to The Parable of the Mote and the Beam.

Thus the major theme for this Sunday’s readings is well summarized in Lectionary Scripture Notes, which often includes pithy Biblical exegesis:

It is good to remind ourselves again that the concept of “righteousness” even in an Old Testament context is not to imply that the believer lives in faultless conformity to some moral norm.   It has to do with living in right relationship with God. (E.A.)

That’s important to remember, especially for those who like to stick their noses in other people’s business.  After all, King David was one of God’s Favorites, even though he was hardly a paragon of virtue.  Quite the opposite:  he was merely a real-life “living breathing human being,” with all the “inherent faults and flaws” shared by us mere humans.

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File:Gerard van Honthorst - King David Playing the Harp - Google Art Project.jpg

Another view of David, playing the harp and “singing a new song…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Psalms – Wikipedia, with the full caption:  “David Playing the Harp by Jan de Bray, 1670.”

See also the web article King David misunderstood says Yale scholar, with the rest of the headline reading:  “Politician, psalmist, adulterer and more.”  The Old Testament scholar in question is Doctor Joel Baden, whose work – including his The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero – argued that we’ve “lost sight of David as a real-life ‘living breathing human being’ with all our inherent faults and flaws.”  See also On the psalms up to December 21:

The starting point is the biblical text itself.  I try to understand not only what the biblical authors were saying, but why they were saying it.  That is to say, what was their purpose in writing these stories the way that they did?   I take very seriously what they actually wrote: what they included (and didn’t include)…   The second important step is to view David not as a character in the Bible, but as a living, breathing man in the early first millennium BCE…  The portrayal of David I put forward in the book is thus a combination of these two approaches:  a close reading of the biblical text filled out with the background of the ancient world as we now understand it.   It is an attempt to find the real David moving beneath the veneer of the Bible’s own interpretation of his life. (E.A.)

Which is pretty much the theme of this blog, that the Bible was not written by super-heroes not remotely like us, but by people just like us –  “with all our inherent faults and flaws.”

The lower image is courtesy of File: Gerard van Honthorst – King David Playing the Harp.  The artist (1590-1656) was a “Dutch Golden Age painter” who early in life visited Rome, where he found success “painting in a style influenced by Caravaggio.  Following his return to the Netherlands he became a leading portrait painter.” See Gerard van Honthorst – Wikipedia.

As to the topic David playing the harp in general, see also David – Wikipedia.  The article noted the account of First Samuel, Chapter 16, about Saul, the first king of Israel being tormented by an evil spirit.  It was suggested “he send for David, a young warrior famed for bravery and his lyre playing.  Saul did so, and made David one of his armor-bearers.  From then on, whenever ‘the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play.  Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him,’” as illustrated above.

See also On the psalms up to September 28.

Re: “for members only.”  See “Mr. Chan?”  That page noted:  “That promise alone” – in John 6:37 – “is far different than the idea – promoted by many who should know better – that Christianity is some kind of exclusive club, ‘for members only.'”

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