Published March 2009, The Lutheran
I had begun to think Chicken Little was right. Dire global economics, dishonest Wall Street practices, and unrelenting violence in the Middle East, sent my mind into a tailspin of despair. I wanted to gnash my teeth and rend my clothes.
Responding this way, however, struck me as unbecoming for a person of faith. Instead, I got up off the couch one Wednesday evening after the news was over, pulled on my boots, drove to our church, descended a narrow set of stairs, and joined the choir.
I took my place in the alto section with well-seasoned singers on my left and right. Years of neglect had left my voice diminished in its range. Bright fluorescents overhead did little to improve my dusty sight-reading. Still, I nestled in between these welcoming choir members and hitched my unpracticed voice to theirs.
Over the months of choir practice I began to recover not only the range of my voice, but also the legacy of our faith. “A mighty fortress is our God”, Martin Luther wrote during the upheaval of the Reformation. “ A bulwark never failing. And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us. We will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. ”
I begin to understand why the women of Soweto sang. Faced with the legacy of colonialism and the injustice of apartheid, I hear in new ways the harmonies of their Zulu hymn “Akahlulwa Lutho,” which affirms over and over again: “Nothing is impossible for the Lord, Trust and trust in Him, For nothing can defeat Him.”
With ears opened, I hear again the bold landscape of faith in the African American spirituals born within the atrocities of slavery. ‘You can have your world. Just give me Jesus. Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus.”
A refugee friend from Gabon once told me, “In Africa we sing in church to bring God down to us.” I am lifted by her wise words, by this reconnection to our religious forebears, who sang side by side throughout many dark eras, and called God to them.
I hum as I get in my car. I long to linger inside a tonal beauty with the tenors, a warm chord with the sopranos. As I back my car out into a world still dark and troubled, I harbor these comforting sounds and take them with me.
I know the music resonating inside will not solve the uncertainty of continued job losses and shrinking retirement plans. But as I drive home, the streetlights glow with a new intensity and seem to cast a beam broader than these present calamities. Our choir has called upon a God who brings something new out of the devastation of the old. Infused with diverse generations of Christian song, the cacophony of the world outside fades. Singing my part in a larger whole, I find little room left for a falling sky.