Based on Ephesians 5:14-16, 19-20
This worship experience has found expression in words of songs. Yet deeper meaning is to be discovered in the New Testament reading, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Preaching at the youth connection’s millennium, Jim Forbes offered a song he had written, the lyrics of the song I would like to share this morning, and then tender some thoughts, vis-à-vis—a meaning. At that time allow Ephesians to infuse our time together with a word of hope.
Here is the poem with some editorial changes:
There’s a song inside of me,
I can hardly wait to see
What it is I have to say
Or the music I will play.
It’s been so long in coming,
First the thought—and then some humming,
But before I find my key—something stifles it in me.
What keeps my song from being sung?
Past hurts, deep fears, a timid tongue?
What makes my song come so hard?
A self-made, live-in prison guard?
Meanwhile, the song still groans in me.
I can’t be me ‘til it is free,
Debating, calculating, hesitating, getting ready to sing.
The song could die like a stillborn thing.
“Resurrect your song,” said the Spirit to me.
Be free! Be free!
We’re nearly at the end of General Conference, you see.
Cast out each fearsome song patrol,
Proclaim deliverance to your soul.
The spirit of life—flow through my blood.
I said, “Yes”—something broke.
It came like a flood.
Up from within, down from above,
A reign—built on the power of love.
Thank God, my song has been set free.
The rhythm and the words are right for me.
I’m finally ready to sing out strong.
My soul is saying, “This is my song!”
Now those are the lyrics. For me, I want to say this morning that it suggests that our lives are like a song. Every one of us is a one-of-a-kind, precious child of God with a unique song to sing, and the challenge for us today is to find those ways to resurrect our songs all for the purpose—don’t you see?—for reflecting life, and all of what that means: our words, our actions, yes, even our thoughts in the very way that God has intended for life to be cast. Every person, every person’s individual song is to be somehow incorporated into God’s unending symphony and whenever—for whatever reason—it does not happen, all of creation is noticeably off key.
Whenever anyone is prohibited from singing her or his song or living the abundant life, it is not as the triune God has created life to be. And make no mistake about it, no one can sing your song or live your life or offer your contribution but you, and when your part is missing, then the music of the divine symphony goes unsung, thus causing all of life to suffer from some kind of choral misery. What I’m suggesting this morning, sisters and brothers, is when a precious child of God, of which we all are, discovers the strength and the courage, the skill and the grace, to live the way God has created us to live and to live that life with integrity and harmony and transformation in our lives, that’s singing your song.
Living life in tune with the creator God, pulsating with divine intention--now that’s singing your song! Declaring God’s plumb line to our very own lives—that’s singing our song! We all have a song to sing; we all have a story to tell; we all have a life to share. All for the sake of glorifying the risen Christ present to all of us, all of humanity. And the God, the God who made the heart to sing, knows that your song is there.
So today I am convinced that God just might be calling or inviting, or, yes, even expecting, us to join God in the resurrection of our song, in resurrecting our joy, in resurrecting hope, in resurrecting our courage, in resurrecting the joy that comes from working together and being a dynamic denomination. Sometimes praying together, sometimes crying together, sometimes laughing together—but all times joining hands together—that’s singing your song, resurrecting our song of belief. It says that the best years of our church are in God’s future and not in our past. Resurrecting our songs of dreams and our songs of hope—that says that we can be everything God wants us to be, nothing more and nothing less and nothing else will do.
But don’t you know? There is a question de jour. I mean, it wouldn’t be a conference if there was not a question de jour, emerging, however, this morning from the text.
What are the stones we have in our path today that have been rolled in the way of preventing this United Methodist Church from singing our song? What are the stones that silence the songs among us? I’ve wondered today sometimes if there’s not a menacing force in the world, some kind of adversary whose specialty, it seems, is in keeping songs locked behind the stones—silencing the joy, the songs of joy, and the songs of hope, and the songs of dreams—muting the songs from within us. Some kind of song exterminator would be more of an apt description.
What keeps us from singing our songs of joy, our songs of hope, our songs of courage, and our songs of praise? What are the stones today that silence the songs? Do you think we have enough time here today that we can name a few?
Sometimes I think preoccupation with what we don’t have rather than what God has already blessed us with can do us in. And since we’re talking about these matters: What about starting all of those conversations with how much will this cost us with dollars and cents and not asking the question, “How much will this cost us if we do not go where God is leading us to go?” What’s silencing the songs among us? And not to mention, and I certainly don’t want to offend a lot of people, thank God you don’t have to vote on the pads on how we’re doing here.
But sometimes I think having more of our share of joyless churches full of dreamless people served by hopeless clergy can become places of song abuse. Sometimes I think what we need in our church is a task force on song abuse, a task force on joy abuse or hope abuse or faith abuse, having that kind of a “Burger King theology” where we kind of want to have it “our way.” And I’m wondering: What’s God’s way for us? What is God calling and nudging and inviting us to do? What’s God saying? “Come on and follow me.”
And since we’re on this subject, just stick with me for a few moments. Should we, at least, do you think raise a warning today, not a big warning but just a small warning today, for some, not all, of the cliques and caucuses and boards and agencies and annual conferences and disconnecting congregations and how all of these have become, sometimes, to take class action against the emerging melodies of hope and the songs of life?
What’s silencing our songs today? And sometimes, sisters and brothers, we can do it to ourselves with that paralyzing fear that seems to rip our lives over our failure to recognize our kinship with each other. Sometimes these can hush our songs and diminish our lives not to cite personal or corporate pain among us.
All of these can become a chill against the songs of life, but don’t let these chill our songs. Don’t let them stand sentry against the resurrection of songs when the impulse to joy comes and the hope and celebration make its way to us with the lyrics of life, harmony of mind and spirit, when these impulses of songs raise their heads. It could be the divine conductor is calling the chorus together and rolling away the stones for the resurrection of songs to occur in our lives.
I’ve been sitting up there for the last 10 days with my esteemed colleagues, and I’ve been looking out like the rest, looking out over this General Conference. And I have to admit to you this morning, when I look out over this General Conference for the last 10 days what I see.
I see psalms. I see capabilities. I see gifts. I see talents. I see possibilities. Can you just imagine this morning what would happen to us today if there were a mighty release and a resurrection of the songs of life from us in this General Conference; if we were set free of all of our fears, and with the resurrection of hope and joy and courage from the people of God, The United Methodist Church, if we could dismantle our walls and roll away the stones of our fears and go back to our homes, our local churches, our ministry settings, leaving this conference, and persons would say, “What did you do at General Conference?” And if we could say, “We resurrected our songs! We resurrected our songs of making disciples of Jesus Christ.”
And if we do that, I believe we could see a spiritual transformation in this denomination like we’ve never seen before. Why, I believe if we started singing a song of making disciples of Jesus Christ, we could reclaim our cities, the places we walked away from. We could continue to grow in the suburbs. We could reclaim our rural areas. We could grow within the U.S. We could grow outside of the U.S., across the great bodies of water. We could see a spiritual transformation from the resurrection and the release of our songs.
The text in Ephesians says: “Wake up. Wake up. And Christ shall give us the light.” The scripture says that the voice of God, manifest in Jesus Christ, calls our song forth. And the one who calls for our song provides the strength for its release. God’s power, God’s might, God’s activity—it’s in this church. May we stand before our stones and say: “Get thee behind us, stones! Our life and our future are in the Risen Christ.” May each of us find ways to resurrect our songs!
I want to close this morning with the same way I started, in offering up the poem, with even some more editorial changes. Listen to these words:
There’s a song inside of us,
We can hardly wait to see
What it is we have to say
Or the music we will play.
It’s been so long coming.
First, the thought—then some humming,
But before we could find our key, something stifles it inside of us.
What keeps our song from being sung?
Past hurts or deep fears, a timid tongue?
What makes our freedom come so hard?
A self-made, live-in prison guard?
Meanwhile, the song still grows in us.
We can’t be us ‘til it is free,
Debating, hesitating, calculating to sing the song.
It could die, like a stillborn thing.
“Resurrect your song!” said the Spirit to us.
Be free! Be free! This is God’s church, you see.
Cast out each fearsome song patrol.
Proclaim deliverance to our souls.
The Spirit of life flows through our blood.
We say “yes”; something will break.
It will come like a flood.
Up from within, down from above,
A reign—built on the power of love.
Thank God, our song has been set free.
The rhythm and the words are right for us.
We’re finally ready now to sing out strong.
Our soul is saying: “This is our song.” Amen.