Texts: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
It’s important to remember this because as much as music unites us, it can also divide us. We love to hear our favorite hymns, but there are other hymns we don’t love to sing, and we might even hear a few of those today, too. To some, this seems like an unavoidable problem of community: wherever 2 or 3 are gathered, there will be at least 4 differing opinions. I see it differently. I look at the diversity of tastes and styles and traditions and backgrounds represented here and I see God’s gift to the Church. If we were all the same, we would have nothing to gain by coming here, because gathering would not be stretching us and helping us to grow into God’s kingdom.
The hymns we share today are all songs that have been requested as favorites by people in our congregation. As we sing them, some will love them, some may hate them, others may be completely ambivalent about them, but the same is not true of the people who chose them. For all of our different preferences and opinions about music or anything else, we have each been called by God to be here, to be members of this community of faith we call the Church. We may not agree with one another, but we do love one another, respect one another, and appreciate one another.
These hymns today actually help remind us of that. They help to put human faces on the many different and wonderful gifts and ideas that exist within this haphazard collection of saints. They help us remember that whether we are talking about favorite songs or political ideologies or biblical interpretations, we can appreciate and respect each other even if we don’t agree with one another. We can sing one another’s songs, and even if we don’t like some of them very much, those songs can become are a part of who we are together, and that makes them beautiful.
As you sing today with great gusto, I hope the music brings to life the words of James’ letter and Mark’s gospel. Singing together helps unite us. As a community, we function best when we are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. We function best when we are doers of the word, not merely hearers. It’s not what goes into a person that defiles—the music we hear, the opinions to which we listen—but what comes out—unkind words, thoughtless actions, decisions made in hasty anger.
There’s a reason our visions of heaven always include singing. When we lift our voices in song, even the pitchy notes and the mumbled words are lost in the choir, and all the little variations are what give us our unique sound. So let’s have fun, enjoy ourselves, and sing ourselves into community today with these hymns.