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  • The Rev. Van Gardner

How Can You Sing God's Love Song?

From the psalm for today "Sing to the Lord a new song for He has done marvelous things. Shout with joy to the Lord All Ye Lands, lift up your voice rejoice and sing”. Last week I was in the waiting room at the hospital. Whether you're there for a routine test or something more serious, there's an air of anxiety and uncertainty. People sit quietly or make small talk. As I sat there, I noticed music playing in the background. At first I couldn't recognize the tunes but then I realized they were old hymns and spirituals, Amazing Grace, Down by the Riverside, Old Rugged Cross. I looked at all those anxious faces and I thought about how many people over the years have found strength and comfort in anxious times listening and singing those old hymns. “Gonna lay all my burdens down, down by the Riverside. Twas grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.” It reminded me of another spiritual I like very much, "my life goes on in endless song above earth's lamentations. I hear the real though far-off hymn that hails a new creation, through all the tumult and the strife, I hear I it's music ringing, it sounds an echo in my heart, how can I keep from singing?" We all know times of tumult and strife; a serious illness, the loss of someone dear to us, a child who struggles, a troubled marriage. At such times it all can seem overwhelming, all consuming. It's hard to see past it, but in those times it is important to stop and listen. Listen to hear God's eternal love song “above earth Lamentations,” a song of healing and Hope, limitless enduring love.

The Gospel today is a strange encounter. The Sadducees posed a bizarre question to Jesus. Like many people today, they're not interested in the answer but in the argument, an argument they intend to win. Let me summarize it briefly. The law requires that if a man dies and his widow is childless his brother should marry the widow. It is a good law. A woman in that situation would be very vulnerable but according to this scenario seven Brothers marry her and all die. The question is, in the day of Resurrection whose wife will she be? Now my first thought is that after the fifth or sixth brother dies married to her wouldn't the 6th or 7th have some second thoughts. I know we always say there is no such thing as a stupid question, but you can almost hear Jesus sigh with exasperation. He refuses to engage at that level. They want to argue about who will be married to whom on the day of resurrection. Jesus wants to talk about what it means to be “children of the Resurrection” today, to live in Hope and Faith now. They want to debate the limits of the law. Jesus proclaims I love that knows no limits, a love that transcends our narrow imagination and “hales a new creation.” It is curious that this debate takes place on the subject of marriage

As any Parish priest or father of the Bride will tell you (I have been both) weddings can be very challenging but I have never had a wedding nearly as challenging my old friend Michael Curry when he was invited to preach at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Talk about Pomp and ceremony, the Queen and royal family, a church full of VIPs, a television audience of over a billion people, media from all over the world talking about the celebrities and their fashions. The one thing no one came to do was to listen to black American Bishop who grew up in Buffalo and served in West Baltimore preach a sermon, but we all know what happened. Michael preached about God's love song that hales a new creation and for a few minutes the whole world listened. He told them about the power of Love, the Redemptive Power of Love, to change lives and change the world. As he said, ”the power of Love to help and heal when nothing else can. The power of love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. The power of Love to show us how to live when nothing else can.” He even quoted an old spiritual “there is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.” That balm is God's enduring love and for a few minutes people in that old church and around the world were lifted out of the trivial and the superficial to hear God’s eternal love song for us all.

It is no surprise that he quoted a spiritual. Michael grew up listening to his grandmother, Nelly, sing these songs and hymns in bad times and in good. He wrote a book called “Songs My Grandma Sang.” He remembers her in the kitchen cooking for the family and singing hymns and spirituals, even one time when her own 44 year old daughter lay dying after brain surgery. Michael said that at the Royal Wedding he could hear his grandmother singing in the back of the church. You see, when we have truly heard God's eternal love song “Above Earth's Lamentations,” when God's love is the music of our hearts in good times and tough times, “how can we keep from singing.”

How will you sing God love song in your life? It doesn't matter if, like me, you can't even carry a tune. How can you sing God's love song? You can reach out to someone going through a difficult time. You can touch someone with a sign of caring and compassion. You can listen to someone who needs to be heard. You can mentor a child, visit the lonely. You can speak out when you see an injustice, care for God's creation. You can just be a friend to some who needs you.

When we hear God's love song it “sounds an echo in our hearts…how can we keep from singing?

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