One Body, One Voice

a reflection for Music Sunday 2020

Today is Music Sunday here at First Congregational Church. Traditionally, this is a day when we gather in church for a whole morning of music. We give thanks for the gifts that Marcia brings to every keyboard she plays. We thank our Choir Director for a whole year of teaching and learning and laughing together. And we sing. On Music Sunday, we pick out the songs we have loved best over the year just past, and we lift our voices in thanksgiving and joy.

It is hard for me to find words for the grief I am feeling on this particular Music Sunday. A Sunday that is dawning all over the world without choirs, without hymnals, without the beloved community gathered for worship and for song.

I have no doubt that many of you are feeling the same sense of loss and bewilderment. Who are we if we do not sing together? Without the spiritual practice of song, how will we give voice to our gratefulness, to our sorrow, to our joy? For many of us, the act of singing together as one body, as one voice, brings us a felt sense of our oneness — with each other and with God — that we have never experienced anywhere else.

But despite this season apart, the fundamental truth of our oneness with God and with each other remains.This is the unshakable truth of our life in God.  And because this is true — because, as the Apostle Paul says, nothing can separate us from one another or from God — then our task during this strange and songless season is to confidently claim the deep truth of our oneness in God and to ask what other practices might embody this truth for us? In the absence of song, what new practices might help us experience the truth of our deep communion and joy? 

I will be honest with you: I don’t yet have an answer. But I am willing to bet everything on the conviction that God does. I am convinced that God is doing a new thing here just as God is always doing a new thing among us if only we will keep our eyes open for a sign of that new life. 

Maybe we don’t quite see it yet. Maybe we can’t yet imagine where we will find the essence of what music brings us — the joy, the togetherness, the hope — anywhere but in the choirs, the hymns, the chants, that we have always known and loved. But if we believe, as we proclaim, that God is still speaking, then we can be sure that God is still speaking of oneness and beauty and joy among us this very day, even as the familiar forms of our life together continue to change.

And so, we will keep listening, this season and far beyond. For the one who calls us to beauty and joy. For the One whose voice continues to sing in and among us. For the One who is doing a new thing among us even as we tearfully set the old forms aside this season. 

I invite you to join me in a prayer of thanksgiving. For Marcia and the beautiful gifts of music and learning and humor she brings to all our worship. For Sam, who stepped up as our Choir Director this year and has led us all into songs of exuberant hope and spirit. And to the First Congregational Chancel Choir, rehearsing late on Thursday nights and early on Sunday mornings, so that they might lead us all into deep prayer and into God’s own joy. For all these musical gifts and for the dear ones who offer them so generously, we say together: Thanks be to God.

I invite you to join me now as we listen to the offerings of Sam and Marcia and the choir this Music Sunday. I trust that even as we listen, God’s wild Holy Spirit is even now singing to us of what is to come.

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