It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who once said, “Into every life some rain must fall.” He was right, of course. What he didn’t say, though, is that there’s rain and then there’s rain. In this season of spring we’re accustomed to seeing light, peaceful showers that water the plants and wash the pollen away. We’re also accustomed to the deluge of thunderstorms that flood the creeks and rivers. You may have come to church this morning feeling like a little rain fell in your life this week. Hopefully it was of the light and peaceful sort that provides growth. Then again, you may have come here feeling like you’ve been through the storm, the flood, the torrent of chaos, or uncertainty, or bad news. You may have come here this morning troubled by events in our world, which seems at times to be growing less peaceful by the day.
We’ve all had bad days and rotten moments that linger with us, times when things don’t quite work out the way we wish they would. For many different reasons, this morning as we celebrate the gift of music and appreciate our various choirs, it feels like we’re singing in the rain. Even in the midst of the downpour, we have gathered here to worship God and sing together. In the words of the Psalmist, sometimes we come here just to hope in God, for we shall again praise him, our help and our God.
The Psalmist sort of sounds like he’s accustomed to bad weather, doesn’t he? He sounds like he’s seen a storm or two in his life. “My tears have been my food day and night,” he says, “while people say to me continually, where is your God?” His anguish is heavy and burdensome. He compares it to the thunder of chariots, billowing over him in wave after wave. If he were writing today, he might say he feels like he’s been steamrolled. And yet, somehow in the same Psalm of anguish and hopelessness, he is able to utter the beautiful words, “By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” Even after feeling steamrolled, even in the worst of life’s storms, the Psalmist proclaims that God is there. Even in the midst of great trouble, there is a hopeful prayer to be sung. Along with the Psalmist, we as faithful believers following Jesus are the ones called to sing it.
One of my favorite post-resurrection stories is found in Luke 24, in which the risen Jesus gives his disciples a message of hope in the midst of some very turbulent times. Jesus appears to his disciples and instructs them to proclaim good news – repentance and forgiveness of sins – to all nations, beginning with Jerusalem. That is, Jesus tells his disciples to preach the good news starting with the place where they saw their Lord arrested and put to death on a cross. Jesus is telling them to go back into the eye of the storm! Jerusalem is the place of their greatest horror, the place from which they all fled just a few days earlier. Why go back there? It’s probably the last place on earth the disciples would have wanted to go. However, when they go back to that horrible place, to the city and the people who crucified their Lord, there will be one major difference. Now they have good news to preach, and proclaim, and sing. This time, they are witnesses to the resurrection. They have seen the risen Lord. This was their call, to go into the storms of life and proclaim the good news of the resurrection. And this is the call that we have inherited from them.
And so it is that we have come to gather here this morning, a mere two weeks after celebrating Easter, to share our gifts of music and sing good news in the midst of our storms. We are proclaiming the good news of the resurrection in song, and I’m sure you all know how powerful God’s word in music can be. I am mindful of times in my life when just hearing voices of a choir, or the ring of handbells, or a beautiful piece of music just affected me in very deep ways, and I find myself thanking God for every little note I hear.
Karl Barth, the famous twentieth-century pastor and theologian who wrote volumes upon volumes of his theology, was once asked if he could summarize all of his writings in just one sentence. Being one of the most complex intellectuals of our time, you may have expected Barth to rattle off a quote from one of his many writings. Instead, he quoted the text from a simple children’s song. “Jesus loves me, this I know,” he said, “for the Bible tells me so.” Sometimes music speaks to us in ways that even two dozen volumes of theology cannot.
Music also sometimes best expresses our journey of faith. We have music that just seems to “fit” with certain moods. Whether we are sad, or happy, or hopeless, or at peace, we have music that just seems to speak to us in our various moods. Someone once asked me, in the soundtrack of your life, what song is playing right now? It’s a fun question to try to answer, I think. If your life was a movie, what songs would be playing in the background? What would the soundtrack of our life together as a community of faith sound like? Early church father Ignatius wrote that, “God has prepared for himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song.” We join in this song when we celebrate, and when we mourn. We join it when we greet each other and when we pray together. We join it when we give each other hugs or shed tears together. In the Book of Common Prayer, there’s a funeral liturgy which reads, “Even at the grave, we make our song. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.”
Each week when we come together as brothers and sisters in Christ, we gather here in this place called a sanctuary, a place where we can come in from the rain and stormy weather of our world and our daily lives. Every week we come so that we can worship God together, pray together, hear the word of God together, and even sing together. No matter what happens, no matter how bad the world’s downpour might be, we will continue to gather, week after week, and we will sing…
A prayer to the God of our lives.
Thanks be to God. Amen.