Singing in a choir has always been an important part of my life. I think there is something unique about a group of people that set aside parts of their life every week to not only sing but to worship together. These intimate communities have played such an important role in my faith throughout the different stages in my life. They have helped me find my identity within the church, and have helped to discover and encourage my vocation. In college I was lucky to be a part of the St. Olaf Choir my senior year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. We practiced nearly two hours every day, which called for a level of commitment found almost nowhere else. We ended up thinking and practicing and talking about choir at every chance we could find. (Yes we were huge choir nerds.) Because of all the time we spent together, this group is where I made my closest friends and formed some of my deepest relationships.
We began our annual tour in Colorado that year, and that first Sunday we sang for the morning worship service at a choir member’s home church in Denver. She was a close friend of mine, and by sheer coincidence, her grandmother, also a beloved member of that congregation, passed away the day before. It was a moving worship service, and I will never forget after worship when my friend shared with the choir that she was caught up with so much grief and emotion that she was unable to sing. But then she thanked us, because our voices were there to sing for her. It was our voices that stood beside her to sing not only about the pain of death, but to proclaim the good news of the resurrection even in a moment when she couldn’t. In that beautiful moment her story, her grandmother’s story, my story, the congregation’s story all became wrapped up together in the words we sang. As I continue to plan and lead music in worship, I often think about how we each take turns singing the story of our faith- that this song started long before us and will end long after us and we simply join our voices when we can. I take great comfort knowing that the church in all times and places sings for me when I find myself in dark times without a voice.
I think there is something so powerful, so moving when we open our mouths to sing. In this relatively small action we time and time again sing against the injustices that surround us in this world and share our love- share Christ’s love- with those around us. Whether we sing against the injustice of death, illness, prejudice, or hate, we sing when countless others are unable to sing. I know this is naive but I have faith that we do big things in song. I fully believe that when we sing we stand against things that are wrong in our world, support those caught in the middle of injustice, yes both abuser and the abused, and we share the deep peace of the love of Christ. And I think all of these pieces are wrapped up together in ways that are difficult to separate or even understand.
I think that music, especially song, has the power to usher in a new world and I often think of the imagery in Revelation when John describes the angels, elders, and every living creatures singing together to bring about a new heaven and a new earth. John writes in 15:13: Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” It may be a while before we hear what this massive song of praise sounds like, but I don’t think we have to wait to join in. Our faith assures us that we can join this song now, lifting our voices today for justice, love, and praise.
O Lord, let angels and archangels, dominions, thrones, and powers, with cherubim and seraphs now join in the joyful choir. Let us sing glory in the highest and peace in earth and heaven. Tell the words of wonder, “Fear not! Good news is given.” Amen.