There is a powerful thing that happens when people sing together. Those of us who hang around in churches know this is true because we are lucky to be a part of it every Sunday morning and sometimes even other days in the week. In church singing, you don’t need to be a good singer or be able to read music because, nine chances out of ten, the person sitting beside you will drag you along in this life transforming act. I saw it happen yesterday and I heard it, too. While everyone probably has a favorite hymn, one they may or may not even believe the words of, every now and then a song comes along that drags a whole group of people along a road they hadn’t planned to travel but there they are anyway. Yesterday morning this is what I witnessed: a group of people minding their own business, showing up for church for all the varied reasons and then, Bam! They are singing words that get right to the heart of things.
The John Bell song begins:
“Take this moment, sign and space;
Take my friends around;
Here among us make the place
Where your love is found.”
So far, so good. Looking around our community of worshipers, there are indeed friends present. Friends and some others who were visitors and people who don’t know one another very well. There may even be a couple of people who don’t like one another but I am unaware if this is the case. So, asking the Holy to make a place where love is found is no a stretch. But then things started to get more complicated.
“Take the time to call my name
Take the time to mend
Who I am and what I’ve been,
All I’ve failed to tend.
Take the tiredness of my days,
Take my past regret,
Letting your forgiveness touch
All I can’t forget.”
O.K. Now we are into some serious, soul searching singing. Who I am, what I’ve been, all my failings. I saw us all stand a little taller. We were dealing with big things now…in song! By the time we began singing about past regrets and all the nagging things that need our attention, things that hold our shame and cause us to turn away from ourselves and one another, it seemed the music and the words were carrying us along on a magic carpet of truth telling. It only seemed the logical and hopeful thing to do to ask for a touching hand of forgiveness, something like a big net that would spread across every voice, every face, every body. Bring it on! Please.
But the truth telling wasn’t over yet for this band of singers creating sacred sounds on an ordinary Sunday:
“Take the little child in me
Scared of growing old,
Help him/her to find his/her worth
Made in Christ’s own mold.
Take my talents, take my skills,
Take what’s yet to be;
Let my life be yours and yet,
Let is still be me.”
Ah, yes. That fear of growing older stuff. No matter the age, young or not so, this uncertainty of aging is a big deal and so here we were. Naming it. Claiming it. Singing about it. I felt the crack in my voice, as I always do at this point of the song, and knew I was not alone. Indeed, this is the community I have chosen to do this pilgrim walk with, in its highs and lows, in its beauty and tears, all of it now being sung into the world.
And then there was the final flourish. In one enormous voice we asked the Holy One to take all of our stuff, all our bags packed with the generosity and greed of our lives, all that we can’t imagine happening yet and hold it and us. We had the audacity to even ask God to make something of us we hadn’t dreamed, to shape it into a holiness and to leave a little over that was just plain us, with all our warts and flaws, all our goodness and mercies.
Of course, we could have said, and do say, much of these same things in many worship services. But when voices are raised in song, when tears rise to the surface of eyes and pour over onto cheeks,the words are something more. They go deep, deep into a soul when they float on music and their meaning gets lodged in hearts. This is what I experienced and witnessed on Sunday.
It was a holy moment.