Sunday, November 26, 2006

Just Another Song, Just Another Old Church?

This morning a handful of kids stood in front of our aging urban church - in a sanctuary that shows its age, in a church torn by internal struggle over the past two years; now making its way toward an uncertain future. People trickled in, a bit late on the Sunday of a long holiday weekend. Young and old, rich and poor, needy and comfortable.

The singing began, a song from Alison Kraus, a theme on an old traditional:

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown Good Lord, show me the way!

Was it was just another Sunday, just another bunch of kids, just another song?

I looked around at those gathered around me:

- The elderly woman in declining health, for whom even coming to church is a great effort. Slow but purposeful steps toward an uncertain ending.

- The deaf woman with the wonderful smile and quiet servant heart, who comes each week and gladly serves the homeless lunch after church. From silence springs a heart willing to care.

- The otherwise "put together" young professional couple struggling to raise teenagers, who wonder if these strange stages of life have any purpose or meaning.

- The single office worker in her middle years, trying to understand where God is in the midst of her singleness, loneliness, and wondering. No words to heal this pain.

- The homeless man who has recovered his life as a result of a choosing a life of community and accountability, who now serves others from a place of understanding and compassion. A man redeemed.

- The tired and weary choir members, who have suffered emotionally from the painful and confusing church split, who might even wonder why they get up and come each Sunday. Is there grace in the midst of weary souls?

- The c
ouple in their 80s, slightly bent over in their seats, who have faithfully served the church for more than 50 years, and are here again, to worship and serve, on this otherwise ordinary Sunday. Steadfast, giving, determined.

- and
those sitting near the back of church, or maybe in the darkened corners, who come struggling with their sexuality, trying to figure out if God really loves them or not. Wanting to know.

O sinners let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down,
O sinners let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown Good Lord, show me the way !

Just another song? Maybe.

But I think this. Not just a song. Rather, a connection between the ancient past and the modern present. An echo of someplace else, something greater. A taste of home for us all that seems far away, but yet is so much closer than we think. A moment of calm in the midst of the storms of life. A sacred place. A home.

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