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A Letter from Pastor Anita: Joyful Noise

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Psalm 100
What a joyful noise wafted across the lawn and parking lot of LVC on Sunday night!  Brass and guitar, piano and banjo, drum and voice… all raised in joyful song.  Imagine two flat-bed trucks parked side-by-side, adorned with flowers and our new DareToBe2020 signs, set up with a maze of wires and mics, music stands and instruments.  People gathered in their cars, lawn chairs and on their picnic blankets.  Kids twirled to the music.  Friends waved a greeting.  Even the neighbors and shoppers from the stores nearby came to check out all the fun. What a beautiful, joyful noise was enjoyed by all!  By the end of the concert, the band had the whole crowd on their feet singing along.  The Message paraphrase of the opening verses of Psalm 100 reads:
On your feet now—applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
Sunday night, the music of that concert ushered the people gathered into the very presence of God!
This concert was the brainchild of Diane Daly, the Director of Worship at Lenape Valley.  Back in the spring, she began to wonder how we could bring joy into this rather challenging time.  People were struggling with isolation, so could we find a way to gather safely?  The weight of this COVID-reality pressed into every corner of our lives, so could we use music to lift our spirits?  Could we demonstrate the resilience of the people of God in the face of adversity?  It’s easy to sing when life is good and the future is bright.  We hum… we sing in the shower… we joy in the songs of the people of God.  But in a COVID-reality, when caution and fear limit our moments together and threaten to quiet our voice, could we still make a joyful noise?
During ancient times, when the people of God were forced into exile in Babylon, they wondered if making a joyful noise to the Lord was even possible.
How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? (Ps.137:4)
They felt estranged from all they knew and loved… their homeland… their families left behind… their day-to-day rhythms. They wondered- How long O Lord?  They desperately wanted to believe that things would be “back to normal,” that they would be home again soon.  But the days dragged on… the weeks… the months… and still they were in exile.  How do we sing the Lord’s song in this foreign land?  The Lord heard the cry of the people and sent them a letter through the prophet Jeremiah encouraging them to find life and joy in the midst of their exilic reality.  And God gave them a promise: I will turn their mourning into dancing. (Jeremiah 31:13)  God fulfilled that promise to the people of God on Sunday, September 13th in the parking lot of Lenape Valley Church!  How fun to see God’s people on their feet dancing, singing, joyful!
Many thanks to all those who labored for months in preparation for that moment in the life of our faith community- our worship team, our tech team, the property team, and a few added neighbors.  We will long remember the time when we stood in faith and joy against the darkness of this world, insistent that the people of God will not go silent into the night.  The strains of that music will linger in our memories.  The vision of the children of God gathered in song will forever be a part of our Lenape Valley story.  The pain, the anger, the division of this world cannot break the faith of a people who trust in the Creator and Redeemer of the world.  No power in this world can silence the joyful noise!  During the exile, the people of God were tempted to hang up their lyres and allow their voice to be silenced by the reality of their world.  But here at Lenape Valley, we will sing on, with joy and grace and hope.
One last thought from Sunday’s wonderful concert… Some of our neighbors joined us that evening.  They pulled up chairs on their back deck and enjoyed the moment.  They did not venture any closer… but even from their perch they could not miss the fun, the friendship, and the joy of that moment.  Without realizing it, we were bearing witness to the God we trust, who can turn our mourning into dancing.  The presence of our neighbors reminds us that this world is always watching.  They want to see how the people of God will respond to the challenges of this world.  When our leaders struggle to give us tangible hope, will we be a people who hope in the Lord?  When hate taints the ads on our TV and the front pages of our paper, will we demonstrate a love that defines everyone as our neighbor?  When children are hungry and families struggle to make ends meet, will we sacrifice so that people we don’t even know will be whole?  Will we make a joyful noise with every action we take and every word we speak, so that through us our neighbors will be ushered into the very presence of God? As we step into this fall, may we Dare to BE God’s instruments of grace in this hurting world!
With you on the mission field! 
Anita
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