Sermon for June 5, 2016

A Sermon from the North Yarmouth Congregational Church
A sermon offered by the Rev. Nancy J. White in the public worship of the First Congregational Church of North Yarmouth, UCC of North Yarmouth, Maine on June 5, 2016 – Music Sunday.

Music for the Journey
God’s gift of music is woven into our lives – sometimes without us even knowing it. Over my life I have come to understand that there are many musical sections of the Bible – the Psalms being the most well-known. These were the original hymns of God’s people.
For our colonial ancestors, the Psalter was the only music for the church. In many faith traditions, Psalms are still sung today and even though protestant Christians have gotten away from this, occasionally we still sing the Psalms and some of our most beloved hymns are based on a Psalm. Next time you are singing a hymn, take note, if the hymn is scripturally based it is so noted on the top of the page.
God gave music to humans for their life’s journey. Before we can even speak, music is a big part of our lives.
My earliest recollection of music is my Dad singing
Tura lura lura, tura, kura, ly, tura, lura, lura, hush not don’t you cry.
Tura lura lura, tura, kura, ly, tura, lura, lura, an Irish lullaby.

As a family our musical repertoire grew in those two day car rides from Indiana to Maine for vacation every summer.
Tell me why, the stars do shine….
I’ve got a sixpence….
Twas Friday morn when we set sail and we were not far from the land…
Lord George knows my father, father knows Lord George….

And then I remember music as a learning tool – we learned many songs in Sunday school to help us remember the Bible stories. I think in first or 2nd grade we learned:

Go down Moses, way down in Egypt land
Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go!

Later as I taught Sunday school, I learned more:
Father Abraham had many kids, many kids had Father Abraham….
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, numbers, Deuteronomy….
Peter and John went to pray, they met a lame man on the way….
Ho ho ho ho sana, ha ha ha lelujah, he he he saves me, I’ve got the joy of the Lord
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine….
I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart, where?….

In my teenage years, I was a girl scout and singing around the campfire or while hiking was a favorite activity. Sometimes the songs were faith based, sometimes, just like our Psalms, they were songs that reflected teenage angst and feelings. They often followed the folksong genre,
Where have all the flowers gone…..
We are marching to Pretoria…
I have promises to keep…
If I had a hammer,….
Day is done….

Throughout my life I was blessed to sing in school, community and church choirs and as soloist for weddings and funerals and my exposure to music deepened and broadened ranging from classical to pop to gospel, to barbershop. Songs were moving, serious, fun, challenging and reflected the full spectrum of emotions – just like life. When my nana died God gave me the gift of understanding that the Spirit sang with me as I sang O Holy night on Christmas Eve.

When my Dad had a series of TIAs I came to fully understand that music is truly embedded in our souls as I sang his favorite, What a friend we have in Jesus and he sang along even though he was confused and unable to speak at the time.

I have always understood that music, especially church music can be regional in nature.
Songs I knew by heart from growing up in the Midwest were new to my NE church and vice versa. Sharing the familiar and learning new is also part of God’s gift broadening our life experiences.

Seminary opened me up to even more wonderful new music and hymnody. I don’t think previously that I was fully aware that gifted composers are still writing beautiful new hymns all the time. It was as if, wow, new expressions of faith are amazing and just strengthen and deepen the foundations of my faith music experience built over my life time.

I realized as I wrote this, that I could reflect for hours and that is a gift from God as well but we do have Sara’s EC this afternoon….

So I will close by telling you of a song I first heard while cleaning my home church in Clinton, MA – I was the sexton for a couple of years while in seminary. A friend had sent me a tape saying listen to this – this is for you so I was playing it while I cleaned. It was just what I needed for that part of my journey and God had gifted me with this new friend who passed along this blessing to me. And so Sara, I pass this blessing along to you:

Though I feel afraid of territory unknown
I know that I can say that I do not go alone
Jesus you have promised
Your presence in my heart
I cannot see the ending
But it’s here that I must start

All I know is you have called me
That I will follow is all I can say
I will go where you will send me
Your fire lights my way

What lies across the waves
May cause my heart to fear
Will I survive the day
Must I leave what’s known and dear
A ship that’s in the harbor
Is still and safe from harm
But it was not built to be there
It was made for wind and storm

All I know is you have called me
That I will follow is all I can say
I will go where you will send me
Your fire lights my way Composer Ian White

Take some time this week and revisit your own life’s journey.
Celebrate the music God has woven into your life.

Allow God to bless you once again through the precious gift of music.
Amen

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