A Musical Prayer

On November 13, 2016, Church of the Holy Cross UCC celebrated “Sing Praise Sunday,” a service with very little speaking and plenty of music. Children sang, the choirs sang, the people sang (their favorite hymns, so they sang right out!), and the pastor couldn’t quite see speaking a pastoral prayer, so, there was this:

 

Here are the lyrics:

Creator God be with us.
Send us rain and shine upon us all.
In steadfast love incline our hearts to justice.
Raise us when our weary spirits fall.
Raise us when our weary spirits fall.

Savior Christ be with us.
Heal all those suffer, those who sigh.
Forgive us when we serve ourselves, not justice.
Raise us to eternal life on high.
Raise us to eternal life on high.

(Chorus)

God, hear our prayer.
Christ, hear our prayer.
Holy Spirit, hear our prayer.
Bring your grace
To your world.

Holy Spirit be with us.
Guide us as we find our way.
Fill us with the fire of your compassion.
Inspire your children as we pray.
Inspire your children as we pray.

(Chorus, repeat third verse)

When Did God Create Music?

IMG_1373Well, I don’t know when God created music.

I’ve sometimes liked to say that God created music on the fifth day of Creation (as it’s described in Genesis): “And God created the birds of the air (who sing!) and the fish of the sea (who sing in water!), and it was morning and it was evening, and it was choir night: the fifth day.”

That, of course, comes from spending time in several churches whose choirs rehearsed on Thursday night.

But in truth, I like to believe that God created music first.

I like to think that God created music by singing first into the vastness of the universe, one voice ringing in the void.

I like to think that the stars and galaxies came to be so that the music could echo from them – and become the music of the spheres.

I like to think that when the planets formed, the sighing of wind and waves carries the songs of God.

I like to think that birds began to sing so that they could join the melodies of God.

I believe that you and I exist so that we might harmonize with our Creator, that we might make the music even greater.

Sometimes we’ll join with instruments or voices, blending with each other to swell the chorus of the ages. Sometimes we’ll join with dance, with swaying bodies or lilting hands. Sometimes we’ll join by building other harmonies: with kindness, compassion, love, and care for people, creatures, and this created planet of ours.

I believe that when we make our harmonies, God smiles…

And keep on singing.

With a Grateful Heart

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The youth rejoice.

In company with many of my fellow citizens, I’ve felt a lot of sorrow this week, and a burden on my soul. The deaths of Alton Sterling, then Philandro Castile, then Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa, came as a relentless beat of violence. They laid bare once again how incomplete is America’s effort to eradicate racism from its society, and how overly ready we are to turn to force – deadly force – when fear and rage drive us.

 

On Saturday, I took the road south from Hilo to another UCC church, Kalapana Mauna Kea First Congregational Church, as they were celebrating their 193rd anniversary and holding a Ho ‘Ike, a musical celebration including musicians from a number of congregations around the island and a 90-person group of young people doing service projects at local churches across Hawai’i.

As I was watching liturgical hula for the first time (video below), I felt my soul rise. It was exactly what I needed.

Later on, I joined the kahu (pastors) and other church leaders in the house for an impromptu rendition of a Hawaiian song. Well, I’ve only been here three months, my Hawaiian can be generously described as minimal, and I simply didn’t grow up with the songs – but when you don’t know the melody, you can harmonize, and when you don’t know the words, you do your best with the vowels as they come along.

So thank you, Kalapana Mauna Kea, Kahu Mike Warren, and all the leadership and musicians of the day that made it so special. I’ve been richly blessed. May God bless you even more.