My dad used to tell us this story from his school days about his music teacher. He could never carry a tune, so when it came to a school performance, she’d tell him to stand in the back row and just pretend he was singing. She also told him she thought he’d be a good trumpet player, but that’s a story for another day.
Even though Daddy couldn’t carry a tune, it never kept him from singing. He’d be getting ready for work and I could hear “pack up all your cares and woe, here I go, singing low…” or “Hark the herald angels sing” with every crackling note! I so often think of him when we are singing in church because my brothers and I would giggle when he’d belt out a hymn. He didn’t seem to even notice because music was so much a part of his life and so much a part of worship.
The music seemed especially beautiful to me yesterday in worship. It was as if every hymn we sang was ﬁlled with thanks and praise to God for all of life. And then, our wonderful choir sang….
“For the beauty of the earth; For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth over and around us lies:
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.”
During my favorite verse….
“For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends of earth, and friends above…”
I could see my Dad, singing in the back row (of course). Along with him, I could picture our dear friend and neighbor from down the road who crossed just that morning from earth to heaven.
“Lord of all, to thee we raise, this our joyful hymn of praise.”
words from John Rutter “For the Beauty of the Earth”
Judith Harnish, Author
Following the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me? Jesus used the Greek work, agape. Peter responded three times with the word, phileo. “Yes Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.” Agape is to love someone without conditions attached to that love. The word that Peter used is a love between brothers, sisters, and friends. The word for the city Philadelphia means brotherly love. The foundation word is phileo.
Jesus responded three time to Peter, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep.” Agape love calls us to tend and feed. Tending and feeding is more than food and drink. So to be the church of Christ, we are all called to tend and feed. Our calling as Christians is to be doing what Jesus was doing.
Our calling is to share the good news that we are all unconditionally loved by God in Christ. We are also called to demonstrate that love through tending and feeding not only to the people we know but also the people we don’t know. Healing ministry is part of the tending and feeding. One third of each of the gospels talks about healing. Christian faith is the Christ ministering through us bringing wholeness to others as we tend and feed one another. “So faith, hope, love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.(agape)” I Cor. 13:13
The Rev. Russ Brandt, Author
“Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” – remember singing that with gusto as a kid during the opening song time at Sunday School? Remember the stories: Jesus’ birth with visits to the stable by angels, shepherds, and Wiseman; his visit to the temple as a young boy; his walking on water out to the disciples in the boat; his feeding the five thousand with only five loaves and two fishes. And remember those Old Testament stories: Noah’s Ark, Joseph and the coat of many colors, Moses in the bulrushes and then his parting the Red Sea, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den. . . . My mind’s eye still sees the colorful illustrations from the “Sunday School paper” that we brought home each Sunday. Stories truly bind us to the faith from a very young age.
Last month we had many family members with us as part of our 50th wedding anniversary celebration. Around the table or at the evening lakeside campfire, stories were told. Someone would start, “Remember when . . .” then the stories would begin with others adding their versions-not always remembered in exactly the same way, but nonetheless binding us together as family.
Recently, I have been an interviewer in the Appreciative Inquiry process. I and the other interviewers have been listening to and recording “Stories of St. Andrews”: a fledgling church sharing worship space at St. Phillips, everyone staying for Coffee Hour, worship in the tent, marching up the hill with bagpipes leading the way to the new church on the hill, Hanging the Greens and watching the church transform to Christmas glow, meeting people “just like me” over coffee and conversation, finding reassurance and grace in the quiet of worship prayers, feeling God’s presence in the sanctuary when surrounded by the beauty of nature, and remembering long after the sermon a story Rev. Anne had included. These and so many others truly bind us to our faith in this congregation of believers.
Bible stories, family stories, church stories all have the power to mold us in our faith leading to our joyously singing:
“I love to tell the story, ‘twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.”
Praise the Lord, Dianne Stephenson