A few weeks ago, I had the chance to sit in the congregation for a worship session.
As I slid into the seats, I could feel the energy of the people around me. Some were excited to be there. Others had probably been dragged by a well-meaning family member. Some were distracted as they sorted out purses and jackets. Others waited in anticipation.
The first song was How Great Thou Art. The people sang boisterously, and on the the chorus, you could hear faint harmony. I noticed a couple a few rows ahead of me. They were a little older, and seemed comfortable standing close, as you might after a lifetime together. As the last chords wrapped up the song, he leaned over and put his arm around her. It was an intentional action. He whispered something in her ear. She smiled and leaned her head to his shoulder. It was a brief, private moment in a large, public place. I wondered what had transpired. Had the song brought back a memory? Did she need a moment of comfort that only he could recognize?
The family in the row to the left of me started to sway. Four adults. You could tell they weren't singers by their faint lip syncing, but they loved the music. They changed rhythm with each song. They weren't dancers - just swayers. Every once in a while, one of them would close their eyes and lift a hand and belt out one or two lines of the chorus. The music and worship were in their bones.
Then, the Alto entered my row. At first, I only noticed her as a woman arriving late, fussing to make sure her elderly mother was comfortable in her seat. But once she was organized, her voice opened up and her presence was undeniable. A Soprano and Alto in the same row - here we go! I could feel my own voice lift as she added her rich, dark harmonies. As we sang together in our unscripted duet, I could feel the voices of those around us lifting in unison. As we hit the chorus of In Christ Alone, I heard bass and tenor notes drifting into the mix. It was glorious!
As we all sang and worshiped together, I was reminded of the importance of community. It's not just about having our attendance recorded and our offering collected. We are necessary to each other. You and your participation are a blessing to me. And, God-willing, I and my participation are a blessing to you.
Time and time again, Jesus demonstrated life in community. He told stories to large groups, ate meals at parties, and sang hymns with his friends. He knew that we needed each other in ways that are sometimes hard to define, but are palpable in experience.
As I see you offer yourself to God - perfectly, brokenly, honestly - it encourages me to do the same. I find courage in your strength. I feel compassion in your willingness to be weak. I see grace in our shared experience of coming together, marked by our failures and imperfections, and finding nothing but mercy and forgiveness waiting for us at the cross.
So this Sunday, let's stand together, side by side, and sing...
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