Exod. 15:1-21; 1 Pet. 1:13-25; John 14:18-31
Enough! That one word summarizes so much of the book of Exodus. Having gone through years of bondage, the Israelites have had enough. God’s escape plan has not been going fast enough. God has had enough and the Plagues come. Now it is Pharaoh who has had enough. God gave directions for Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread was completed. Moses and the gang have marched through the Red Sea, and the pursuers have been drowned – “So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”
And what happens? The people burst into song. Their whole beings are engaged, wrapped up in the praise of the God who has freed them. The Song of Moses, which recounts the events of the previous chapter, is beautiful. The narration is not meant to be a sequential understanding, but is rich in poetic verse, parallelism, and appears to be quite ancient. It is indeed a song!
As a church musician, and now a pastor, I am always intrigued by the process of singing. No other instrument is so exposing and personal. I am aware there are some who don’t feel they are good at it, so they stand there smugly in worship, arms folded, and wait for it to be done. What a sad state of affairs! This is no concert! This is all of us joining in praise to the one who saved us from the Red Sea, delivered us from the hands of the Egyptians, and then delivered us from death by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. How can we not share some sort of excitement about that?
Now I understand not everyone is Julie Andrews, and when they get happy they don’t feel like spinning on top of a mountain, singing their hearts out, and acting like a crazy person. I know. I understand. But I have a confession: I am not a singer either. I do it because I cannot help myself. And I am not the greatest singer. But God has awakened in me a sense of joy that cannot be contained. So I make a joyful NOISE. And you all have to put up with my big mouth. And those of you in my congregation know I SING LOUDLY!
The Song of Moses recounts the plight, and in this sense it is also a record of theology, the highlights of the community and what they meant. In so many ways, our hymnal and WHAT we sing is a reflection of our theology – our beliefs about God and how we interact with God.
When I get in my car, the “burnt out musician” in me comes out. I don’t listen to music anymore. It is actually quite sad. NPR….NPR….NPR. That is about it. But to those of you that do listen to music, what does that say to you?
How does your music impact your daily thoughts? Might it also shape your beliefs about others? You? God?
My prayer is that when you get to church on Sunday, you will let go of those inhibitions, and just sing your heart out. Show the joy and praise to all the world! Give back to God that “dancing on a mountain top like a crazy person” kind of singing. Who knows, it may open up a new path of thanksgiving and praise in you you have never known.
As my friend Helen Kemp used to say “It takes the whole person to sing and rejoice!” When we do that, and engage your whole being, we give ourselves a chance to truly connect with ourselves, our God, and our bodies. As she used to say, Body, Mind, Spirit, and VOICE.
The picture above is Helen Kemp in 2008, as she conducts at Trinity Wall Street (NYC)
at a 90th birthday Children’s Choir Festival. Helen and I were friends until her death in 2015. She lived a life inspiring children in song, as a children’s choir clinician, composer, voice teacher, and church music pedagogue. She was also a founding member of the Choirsters’ Guild, which made a huge impact on me in my development as a church musician. Her inspiration to me continues.
Thank you for this post! Thank you for singing your heart out in worship! Thank you for being our pastor! Most sincerely, Margo
Running a little behind on the Reflections—what a great t treat to see Saint Helen as I pulled this one up.
I think of you soooo much. Talk with Sam and he concluded that you never got to Wisc.
Next couple weeks look busy—somewhere in there I think we’ll go to KC to mona’s. Ryan Hebert will be there —he’s on sabbatical and is doing some organ study at U of K. But hope you & I can get a lunch date scheduled soon. In the meantime, drop me a note and tell me what’s happening. So glad you are continuing Reflections.