One of the great privileges I have as your pastor is to watch you sing. Please don’t take offense; I love to hear you sing, too! But when I am up front and seeing who is singing, there is an immense solemn joy I get to experience.
I get to watch people with cancer, people with broken hearts over children and grand children, people estranged from loved ones, people with more month than money – I get to not only hear you sing but watch you sing the words of timeless truths. And the way many of you sing is worth the price of the ticket. (Feel free to come up on the stage and watch some time – just not all of you at once!). It’s quite apparent from where I’m at that a good number of you sing thoughtfully, with weighty joy.
Here’s a short story my mom wrote many years ago. I trust it will encourage you to think about how your own signing amidst your trials is such an encouragement to others. Our Lord gives us psalms and hymns and spiritual songs for our encouragement. Many hymns echo in our heads the weighty, hope-producing realities of who Christ is and what He has accomplished for us. And in our singing them, we comfort and stir on others.
Here’s her story.
They sat on the rough wooden benches under the big revival tent. A bright-eyed girl of about seven and two tousle-headed boys, probably five and nine, squeezed between their young parents. A gurgling baby was perched on Daddy’s knee.
Those of us who knew the family were surprised to see them there. The father hadn’t been out of the hospital very long. His face and eyes showed it. Lately his hospital visits had become more frequent as Hodgkin’s disease slowly sapped away his life. Raising my voice with hundreds of others, I suddenly choked on the words of “When We All Get To Heaven.” That family behind me – with the shadow of death hovering over them – were singing at the top of their voices… “just one glimpse of Him in glory, will the toils of life repay.” Then the song leader led us in “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder, I’ll Be There.” Again I was overwhelmed. They sang without tremor or hesitation, voicing each word with meaning and assurance. I felt insincere and shallow, thinking of how often I’d glibly sung those words. This family sang from their hearts, knowing that heaven was not a vague, far-off place. Its doors might open any day for Daddy.
There were other services when we saw them, interspersed with stays in the hospital. But when we saw them, they were always together, always radiant.
Some months later, heaven’s doors did open. Sensing his moments were limited, the father called together the adult members of his family, brother, sisters, parents. Slowly, with effort, he bade each one farewell, expressing his love and concern for the ones who knew not his Savior. Then he asked for Scripture reading and prayer. As the closing words of ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’ filled that hallowed room, the young father slipped away.
Today that brave mom and children sing without the reassurance of Daddy’s voice. But they look forward to the roll call, when all together in heaven, they will join him in triumphant song.
As for me, I sing more thoughtfully these days.
Betty Jo Mathis, c. 1972