I enjoy Broadway musicals. There is something about the power of songs in the musicals that touches the soul. My favorite musical is Les Miserables which is based on the novel by Victor Hugo that bears the same title. Set in 1815 in France, a chain gang of prisoners work at hard labor. After 19 years in prison, Jean Valjean, “Prisoner 24601,” is released on parole by the prison guard Javert. By law, Valjean must display a yellow ticket of leave which identifies him as an ex-convict (“On Parole”).
As a ex-convict, Valjean is shunned wherever he goes and cannot find regular work with decent wages or lodging. Only the Bishop of Digne offers him food and shelter. Discontented, Valjean steals the bishop’s silver and is captured by the police. In response to Valjean’s arrest, the bishop tells the police that the silver was a gift, and gives Valjean a pair of silver candlesticks. The bishop tells Valjean that he must use the silver to become an honest man. Humbled by the bishop’s kindness, Valjean resolves to redeem himself as he is no longer identified as “Prisoner 24601” but instead as Jean Valjean.
Near the end of the play, Valjean finds himself near the conclusion of his life at a convent where he is assured of God’s transforming presence as the new song of his life is completed with the words, “Remember, the truth that once was spoken; to love another person is to see the face of God.”
The psalmist who wrote Psalm 96 understood the transforming power of God’s love as the psalmist wrote, “O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth, sing to the Lord, bless God’s name, tell of God’s salvation from day to day.” I believe the psalmist understood that every day of our lives God invites us to sing a new song as we see the face of God. I believe that every day of our lives God invites us to sing a new song so other people may see the face of God in their lives.
Donna is a Court Appointed Special Advocate often known as a CASA. She writes that in role as a CASA she encounters situations in life where it is difficult to see the face of God. Primarily advocating for children who are being raised in challenged family settings, she works with families in fulfilling two-year court issued plans that can result in either the reunification of families or the termination of parental rights.
She writes that a particular case she was working with showed her the face of God. Neither parent in her case had made any progress on their court issued plan. The mother was incarcerated for the third time on multiple drug charges. Donna states that she wrote the mother off as she had already lost her parental rights for a previous child and showed no behavior change. As Donna sat in a ZOOM meeting with the mother, she saw something she had never seen before from the mother as the mother and the pain pouring forth from her heart to Donna’s heart shattered every prejudice Donna held. There in the prison with her guard standing by, for the first time the raw emotion of the mother’s own inner prison found release.
Donna states that the pain she heard that day from the mother’s heart pierced her heart and opened her eyes to a reality she had not considered. Donna began advocating for resources for the mother and holding off on the petition for termination of parental rights. Donna said that the mother’s release of her story freed her to receive the love and kindness she needed to heal. Donna writes that time will tell the full result, but she has already seen a changed life as the mother has begun to sing a new song with her life.
One of the oldest hymns of the Christian faith is about how Jesus revealed the power of God’s transforming love. Found in Philippians 2:5-11, it is called the kenosis hymn as it witnesses to the self-emptying love that empowered Jesus to become the Savior of the world.
5 “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, assuming human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God exalted him even more highly and gave him the name that is above every other name, 10 so that at the name given to Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Faith in Jesus is faith that every day we can sing a new song with our lives as we see the face of God through Jesus.
As you see the face of God through Jesus, what new song are you singing with your life?
A New Song
by Pastor Marc Brown
July 23, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: Psalm 96
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for July 23, 2023
Scripture Lesson Psalm 96
The Good News “A New Song”
Music “How Can I Keep From Singing?” Hymn #2212
Closing Music “All Things Bright and Beautiful” arr. Gary Norian