It was one of those golden summer mornings when every size and shape of bird is trying to out-sing every other bird in welcoming another day of sunlight and warmth - and most human beings are at least tempted to do the same thing. With inflated hearts, they loosen up the patterns of their days, and even their approach to worship.
It happened to be a Sunday, and a notice board outside a church I sometimes pass on my daily run invited everyone to a hymn sing. I'd never been to a service there before, but how could I refuse?
As I came up the front steps, I found myself thinking about the words of one of my favorite morning hymns :
Sing praise, O waking heart,
For all thy God hath wrought;
For Truth's clear light on thee hath shone,
And purified thy thought.
It was the ideal scene-setter, and just the right spiritual preparation for the service of praise and gratitude that I felt sure lay ahead.
Special seating had been arranged so that people faced one another and more easily shared their smiles and joyful sounds as they chose their favorite hymns.
The first request was for a hymn that recognized the involvement of God in every phase of our lives, "Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on." The second followed quite naturally, "Just a closer walk with Thee." Then the walk became a march, and voices swelled in a booming "Mine eyes have seen the glory." South Africa's Siyahamba ("We are marching in the light of God") soon followed, maintaining the tempo and determined stride.
By now there was real competition for the attention of the gracious young woman who was taking the requests. No one was keener to ask for her favorite than a gray-haired woman in the front row who looked "bowed together" as one imagines the woman in Luke's Gospel might have looked, having been constricted for 18 years (see chapter 13:11-13). Time and again she was thwarted by young people who were taller and louder than she was.
Eventually she out-called them with a request for "Lead me, guide me along the way," adding in a shout that rose to the rafters, "And sing it like you mean it!"
People responded with real enthusiasm, and suddenly the tiny woman seemed less bowed together. With new stature among her fellow worshipers, she rose to her feet to conduct the singing with a swooping right hand. Her eyes gleamed, and now we could all hear her low, tuneful voice.
From then on, the singing soared, and the reverence for God deepened. We sang "The old rugged cross," "Great is Thy faithfulness," "On Christ the solid rock," and "His eye is on the sparrow."
Judging by the hugs I received from complete strangers afterward, there was a shared feeling that we had all been loosed, like that woman in the Bible, from any infirmities we might have brought through the front door that morning. We had all been "made straight, and glorified God."
In the church lobby, we agreed that Jesus must have loved to be around people who were happy together praising God. We also agreed that Jesus' teachings about love and healing were vibrantly available to us all. We had a more spiritual tool at our disposal than coercion or legalism. We had the truth that makes us free (see John 8:32).
I think most of us came out of that sung worship with a new take on the role that God plays in our relationships, in our work and play, and in our life mission.
As I stepped out into the sunlight again, I found myself singing - like I meant it! - the last verse of the hymn mentioned earlier:
Arise, arise and shine,
Uplift thee from the sod,
And let thy living light show forth
Man's unity with God.
- Mary I. Mesechre, "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 14
Harmony in man is as real
and immortal as in music.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Founder of Christian Science)