June CJA 2004 Newsletter Featured Article

A New Song 

In the book of Psalms time and time again the psalmist encourages the Hebrew people to, "Sing to the Lord a new song", and to exhort the people of God to sing new songs! Here is another one from the Bible, "He put a new song in my mouth"!  Evidently from these verses having a "new song" to sing is very important! Furthermore the implication here in this context is that the Creator God himself can give us a new song to sing!

There are many other examples as well in Scripture. In the book of Revelation it states that there will be new songs sung in heaven (Revelations 5:9.) New songs will go on forever. God says he will create a new heaven and new earth, a new covenant, and a new heart. And throughout eternity new songs will be created and sung! Why?

Because God is forever creating new mornings, new sunsets, and new songs! John Haught explains," If God were a magician or dictator, then we might expect the universe to be finished all at once and remain eternally unchanged...but God is not a magician but a creator. And this God is much more interested in promoting freedom and adventure than in preserving the status quo"! When we take a close look and observe Nature we must conclude that Nature heavily favors creativity and diversity! Wendell Berry writes, "No two days are the same, no two snowflakes, no two flowers, trees, or any other of the infinite number of life-forms".

Let's look at how this concept applies to Jazz music. The single greatest thing about Jazz music is the fact that every time a song is played it is played differently. Improvisation allows the performer to play something new every time! This is in direct contrast to Classical music which demands that every note be played exactly the same way every time!! In this way Jazz promotes and encourages creativity. Playing jazz means every time you play it's a new song!

What does it mean to, "create or improvise a new song to God?" Simply put, it means describing through words and music a new and fresh experience you have had that involves your journey and faith in God. It maybe describing a new joy or peace that has come into your life. Or playing or singing about the gift of life itself and your gratitude to the Creator for all His marvelous gifts! Every day is an opportunity for new songs and new beginnings! We have to learn to improvise with our lives as well as we do with our songs! Our lives themselves can become new songs that bring glory and praise to the Creator God!!

Clearly a new song is not about past experiences or old songs done in the same exact way.  God is the God of the present moment. Therefore we shouldn’t primarily live off the past experiences we have had with God. It is easy to become prisoners of our past experiences (good or bad) and lock the living God into an "historical box"! Mary Catherine Bateson says it so well, "We must celebrate the mysterious sacredness of that which is still to be born".

Many religious people during Jesus’ day were living their lives through the past experiences that Abraham, Moses, and Elijah had with God. They were obsessed with what God had done in the past. So much so that they couldn’t see the face of God in Jesus Christ! They kept their focus on what God had done in the past instead of looking for what God was doing in the present moment and time.

Remember in the Old Testament when Moses asked God "what is your name name?" God responded (with a Hebrew phrase) that has been commonly translated into English as, "I Am who I Am"! But Martin Buber, (the best known Jewish religious scholar of this century), argues persuasively that the phrase suggests that God is the presence, "who is present in every now and every here!" Not just somewhere else.

II Cor.4:6 states these incredible words," For it is God who said," let light shine out of darkness", who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!!!" According to the Bible, the presence of God is experienced in this world right here and now through the good news about Jesus Christ and the presence of His Spirit.

The Apostle Paul also points out in II Cor.3 that the ministry of the New covenant is more glorious than that of the Old! The ministry of the Spirit is far better than the Old covenant, according to Paul! There is such a thing as progressive revelation because God is the Eternal Now! And now that we are "in Christ," old things have passed away and all things have become new! New wine, new songs, fresh experiences of grace and encounter with the Holy! Everyday and every moment is holy…new and fresh...The scripture says,

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, 

His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning "!

The Spirit of God inspires and produces fresh new songs, fresh fillings, and fresh experiences of His Spirit. And when God touches you by his Spirit, it is the same Eternal Spirit but it always seems like something new and refreshing... there is nothing stale about tasting living water. No matter how many times you drink of the living water it is always a new and refreshing experience! This is how God can put a new song in our mouths, hearts, and lives.

In Romans 12:1 urges all believers to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The word "transform" is a powerful word. Being renewed implies a fresh start or refreshing - something different from the old. We can either conform to the mentality of the world…or be renewed by the Spirit of God. We can fall into old ways of living and thinking or let the Spirit energize and transform our lives and patterns of thought. We can get in the rut of playing our songs and playing out our entire lives in a stagnant, predictable manner, or we can choose to create and improvise new songs, and sing and play them to God with thankful hearts for the gifts He has most graciously given us! 

But you might say, " you just don't know how hectic and chaotic my life is right now"! And we all have been at that place where it seems as though all the new songs have dried up. Take courage from these words from Matthew Fox, "Chaos is a prelude to creativity. We need to learn to live with chaos and even dance to it". Even further, we must try to improvise upon the melody of life that is continually unfolding, and yes, even dance and celebrate to the challenging rhythms and tempos that come our way! Jazz Pianist and Pastor Bill Carter forcefully exclaims, "According to the fifth chapter of Revelation there is a new song beyond the bruises and brutalities of this age. At times, it's difficult to hear. When the world wears us down we are tempted to neglect the music we were made to make. But beyond our aches and pains there is a new song that can set us free!"

Every every day there is an opportunity for us to be renewed, transformed, and sing a new song to the Lord! There is an old worship chorus I really love entitled, " I Love You Lord". The song is addressed directly to God and the ending words of the chorus say,

"Take joy my King in what You hear,

May it be a sweet sweet sound in Your ear"

My hope and prayer for every Christian Jazz artist and everyone is that we will drink of living water from God's Spirit again and again, and as we do sing a sweet new song to the God of new beginnings. He is forever ready to do a new thing… the question is,… are we ready to sing a new song?

Written by David Arivett

Copyright 2004

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