Reflections on Music Sunday
By the Reverend Doctor Peter W. Allen
Hingham Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
May 15, 2016
Once again, I’d like to thank our music staff, our senior choir, and all of our volunteer musicians for the many blessings you provide each week.
Music, to me, is an essential facet of worship, not only because of the way it pleases our ears, but because of the way it connects us with the Spirit of God, with one another, and with the world around us.
In addition to being Music Sunday here at HCC, it is also Pentecost Sunday today, and important day in the Christian calendar. Each year on Pentecost, we remember that strange and wonderful event that we heard about in the reading from Acts – that day when the disciples and a big crowd were gathered in Jerusalem and there was a sound like the rush of a violent wind… that day when what looked like flames appeared above people’s heads… that day when people could hear others speaking in their own language even though they were from some far off land… that day when the Spirit filled the people and the church was born.
This story of Pentecost fits perfectly with Music Sunday for a lot of reasons.
Have you ever been at a rock concert and what came out of the speakers was like a storm of sound? Have you ever heard an electric guitarist whose fingers were on fire during the solo?
Sometimes, we are so blown away, so transported by music that there are simply no adequate words to explain what we are hearing.
I think the same thing happened that day in Jerusalem. The Spirit of the Living God was so obviously present and was moving within and among them so powerfully, they had no words except wind and flame to describe the experience.
Music can set us on fire and it can move us like a strong wind can push us in a new direction. It is in music, much more than in the words of the preacher, that we sense God’s presence here in this sanctuary. That’s why we cherish music so much in this congregation.
Just as the Spirit created an atmosphere of mutual understanding that day in Jerusalem among people who lived in various parts of the world, people who may not have had all that much in common, music breaks down walls and created bridges of understanding.
I’ll never forget the day I was deep in a Mexican jungle and I heard the sound of someone singing Hotel California… or when I was at an orphanage in Oaxaca City and sang Let it Be with a blind kid who was just starting to learn English.
I’ve sung Christmas carols with a group of families on a Lakota reservation in South Dakota… I’ve sung hymns with friends in a pub in Northern Ireland (not all the patrons were excited about that, so we switched over to a song called Nancy Whiskey).
All of these experiences allowed me to form deep connections with amazing people – all with the help of music.
Where words fail or fall short, music can heal and it can inspire. The Spirit empowered the people that day to envision a better future and to dream of a new day when peace and compassion would reign.
Harmony – on the keys of a piano… when a jazz trumpeter and a sax player dance a duet of sound… when a full symphony orchestra creates a miraculous mixture of notes… when voices in a trio or a choir blend and soar… The sound of harmony is a foretaste of that new world that Jesus came to bring into being, where each one is a conduit of the Spirit, each one has something to offer, and the power of God is fully known only when we join together as one choir, one orchestra, one community of faith.