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What Does the End of the World Sound Like?

Paul McCartney and John Lennon wanted “A Day in the Life,” the last track on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album, to build toward a climax that would sound like the end of the world. Beatles’ producer George Martin hired an orchestra and gave them their sheet music: 24 bars with a low note penciled in the first bar and a high note in the last bar, connected by a squiggly line. Martin instructed the musicians to ignore what everyone else around them was playing and get from the low note to the high note on their own. The orchestra thought Martin had gone mad (as the British say), but they were handsomely compensated for their trouble. The result, which you can hear at this link, is lauded by music critics as one of the most creative pop singles ever:

The Book of Psalms end in a similar way. It’s sheet music for a cacophony of praise to the Living God. Read Psalm 150:3-6:

3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!

4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!

5 Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

I detect a different tone here than in the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” In that song, the end of the world is a discordant, anxiety-inducing event. But the Psalm invites God’s people to come together and lose themselves in extravagant, joyful sounds of praise.

We can do this. Lutes? Not lutes exactly, but we do have guitar and bass players. Strings and pipes? Yes, we have church members who play stringed instruments, to say nothing of the massive rack of pipes that makes up our Middlebush organ. We have a drummer who can bang on the cymbals to his (and our) heart’s content. And on special occasions we have had brass ensembles and harpists glorify God in worship.

Starting Sunday, August 1, you may hear any and all of these instruments in a single worship service. There will one service in the sanctuary at 11:00 AM. Every service will feature an array of musical instruments and styles. Not all at once, of course. We are Presbyterians, after all. But I wonder if, to God’s ears, worship sounds like the joyful cacophony the psalmist describes. God, after all, can hear what’s on our hearts as well as what the musicians are playing and the congregation is singing.

So what sounds of praise will you bring to worship this Sunday? God is great, and God deserves to be praised!

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