Daily Office Readings for Friday, May 11, 2018:
AM Psalm 85, 86; PM Psalm 91, 92
1 Sam. 2:1-10; Eph. 2:1-10; Matt. 7:22-27
Today’s Gospel reading is one of those that, if you’d ever spent any of your youth in Sunday School, or Vacation Bible School, or church camp, you can’t help but start singing “The wise man built his house upon the rock” to yourself. (and check out these really cute kids lip-synching it in the link!)
I imagine if that song was ingrained in your childhood memories, you might even have caught yourself doing the hand motions as you sang it. Isn’t it something how we might not be able to remember what we ate yesterday, but those hand motions come flying out of our brains?
It’s a testimony to how the theology we sing stakes itself into a deeper place than the theology we say or read or think…and how the connections we make with God through hymnody run deeper than anything anyone’s ever said in a sermon.
I was reminded of that a couple of Sundays back to back recently. All of a sudden, as we were singing the opening hymn, “God is love”, I realized the last time we’d sung it was at the funeral of a parishioner…and I immediately looked over at her surviving spouse in the pew to see how he was holding up with it. We talked a little after church, and I could tell he appreciated my acknowledging how it was tough for him.
I wish I could tell you it was because I had great pastoral skills, but honestly, it was on my radar because the week before, we sang “The king of love my shepherd is”, and it was a song that carried a lot of emotion for me because we sang that at my mom’s funeral, and at my ordination to the priesthood. Walking through my own emotions with a hymn had sensitized me to connect with someone else’s pain in a similar situation.
Church is one of the last places on the planet where we are given free rein to sing in public, whether we’re good at it, or can’t carry a tune in a bucket, or somewhere in between…and I believe hymnody is one of the places where we drill into the foundation of building our house upon the rock. The human need to sing is one of those things that still mystifies anthopologists and sociologists to some degree, and it’s unclear what, if anything, was an evolutionary advantage in human song. Yet what we do know is that it is a collective password to our humanity, and we feel and express emotion differently through song than we do through words.
Many of us, over the years, were told by well-meaning parents and teachers that somehow, our singing wasn’t good enough. “Just hum.” “Just move your lips.” Many of us were taught at a very early age to stifle this means of expression, and fall into the delusional trap that singing is best left to professionals.
Yet, I don’t believe it’s an accident that singing takes up a good deal of column inches in the Bible—whether it’s a whole book of songs (the Psalms), the Song of Solomon, or accounts of singing, like when Miriam picks up her tambourine and accompanies Moses and the Israelites as they sing praise to God for delivering them from Pharaoh’s army. I don’t think it’s an accident that monks and nuns chant in their daily worship, and I don’t think we stumbled into hymnody as a hallmark of the Anglican style of worship. Singing, I believe, opens us up to a deeper foundation in our relationship with God, and connects our house even tighter onto that rock.
If our singing is good enough for our shower stall, it’s good enough for God—so sing away!
What song or hymn bonds you to God’s love in a way no book or sermon ever did?
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri as Interim Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd and Chaplain of the Community of St. Brigid, both in Town and Country, MO.