Forgive me, dear reader, for being so tardy in my posting of this sermon I preached on Sunday, June 1 at Westfield. The scripture used for the sermon was Psalm 96.
We are singers. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that, but we are singers. We like to sing. We like to sing with one another, to each other. That really shouldn’t come as any surprise. This congregation carries a rich tradition of singing, of making music together. Even our steeple–the tallest around makes music every hour, ringing its bell and helping those who live around here count the passing of time.
Music is powerful. The music we hear, the music we sing–all of it. It holds power. It holds the power to transport us back to certain places or times in our lives.
Let’s listen for a few seconds:
This is a song that, in its first 15 seconds takes me back to the spring of my senior year of high school–ten years ago this spring. My car, a Jetta, had gotten caught in a freak hailstorm that shut down the Atlanta interstates and turned them into lakes of hail. I drove a rented Hyundai Sonata all over Atlanta that May. And I drove it to my graduation listening to this album. It was my soundtrack that spring.
Now, I doubt many of you could name this band out of 15 seconds of playing (for the record, it’s Counting Crows) and I doubt you could name the album (Hard Candy), but for me, that song and that record hold me.
Now, I want you to shut your eyes and listen to another song. And my guess is that within the first few beats you’ll be transported to a place or event where you’ve heard this song.
We all have music like that–secular or sacred–Songs that sweep us up into a different place and time; songs that remind us of who are, of where we came from.
And that is why we sing in church. Of course, we sing as a way to express our gratitude to God for all God has done. Of course, we sing to offer our praise when words alone fail. But we sing for another reason.
When we sing, we tell our stories. And when we sing them, we don’t sing them alone. We sing them with the generations who have gone before us–we sing them with those who’ve raised their voices singing the songs of our faith.
Our Psalm this morning exhorts us to Sing to the Lord–sing a new song, sing a song of praise. And so, that’s what we strive to do. And sometimes that’s a new song, and sometimes it’s an old favorite. Sometimes it’s new words to an old tune, or new words to a new tune.
But the point is that there is something beyond our words, something just beyond what language alone can describe or express. And we listen to music with one another, trusting that the beauty of music is a gift that transcends our earthly limitations to explain that which claim as our belief. We listen to music being made in our midst as a witness to God’s ongoing creation–that something comes out of nothing.
And then we add words to that music as an act of faith, as an act of belief. And so when when we, as a church, as a community of faith, as a community of witnesses to all that we’ve proclaimed over the past months, when we gather and sing, what we are really doing is deeply and boldly proclaiming our unity in Christ. Much like the one loaf of communion bread, we who are many become one when we lift our voices.
We sing songs of rejoicing, songs of celebration. We sing songs of lament, of faith in the face of adversity or uncertainty. But the point is this: whatever we sing, we listen to it and sing it together. And together we find ourselves encouraged or at least, heard.
So friends, sing. Sing boldly, sing hopefully. Sing the songs of our faith, the songs that tell the stories of our community, of it’s beloved members who’ve gone before us. Sing the songs to teach our children of the beauty of God’s work in this world. We sing for a lot of reasons, but what’s important is that we sing.
So friends, lift your hymnals high. Don’t be shy. And use your voices to lift our praise, our thanksgiving, our faith to the heavens. Amen.