Rev. Kate VanDerzee-Glidden is pastor of First Church of Christ, Congregational in Glastonbury, CT.
Scripture: Psalm 92: 1-4 (NRSV)
A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath Day.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Reflection: You Are Not Alone
It’s been a long 15 months, and yet throughout the pandemic, there have been some constant joys, including the gift of music to inspire and comfort us. As we are reminded in Psalm 92, playing and singing music is a way to give thanks to God. And despite the challenges of this year, or any year for that matter, we are still called to sing praises to God and to share God’s love.
Musicians in our churches and beyond have worked so hard during this tumultuous time to bring the gift of music to us. Our church bell choirs have been consistent parts of our online worship services, and recently our Director of Handbell Choirs shared this story with us.
Early in the morning on Wednesday, January 24, 1979, the sanctuary building of the First United Methodist Church in Holland, Michigan caught fire. Much later after it was finally safe to enter the building, a search was made for the five month old set of handbells. Although the choir room was gutted, even melting the choir robes, the bells were found in their waterlogged, sooty cases. Except for some discoloration from the water, and soot which had settled on and in the bells, it was obvious they were playable. The director, Carl Wiltse, quickly wrote a piece to be played the following Sunday before a tearful, appreciative congregation. Although "Miracle of the Bells" is not intended to contain any programmatic reference to the fire, and the discovery of the bells, nevertheless it has been composed in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving for the "Miracle of the Bells.”
Music provides us a way to give thanks to a good and gracious God even during life’s challenges. Music also reminds us that we are part of God’s family and that we belong to something bigger than ourselves.
Late last spring my twin seven-year-old boys were having a tough time coping with the realities of their drastically changed world. Everything familiar shut down, and suddenly all their routines were thrown off in a very dramatic way. I remember one particular day about a year ago very clearly. One of my children, in particular, was struggling, and his stomach was hurting, he was very lethargic and he just wanted to cuddle (and my boys aren’t cuddlers!). I was looking on my phone at Facebook when I happened on a song that my colleague Liz Miller’s church choir sang. "We are not alone, God is with us." This anthem captures and presents an abiding truth in such a straightforward, simple and honest way that you can't help but be moved. And Lucas was moved and comforted, and he kept listening to the song. Days and weeks later when Lucas got overwhelmed, he would ask to listen again to Liz’s choir singing “We Are Not Alone.”
People of all ages need reminders that we are God’s people and that we belong to something greater than ourselves. We all need to remember that we are not alone, and God is with us. And even if in our darkest days, it is good to remember our call to give thanks and share the amazing news of God’s abiding love.
Creator God, we are grateful for the gift of music and how it moves, shapes and comforts us. May our lives display appreciation for music which inspires, challenges and encourages us, and may we always show respect for the dedication of those who share the gift of music with us. May we continue to share our love for you and for one another through our words, songs and actions. We pray this in the name of the Risen Christ, Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for more than 594,000 dead due to the Covid-19 disease
- For the victims and their families of the 253 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
- For those bullied, ignored, discriminated against, persecuted, or assaulted due to their gender identity, or sexual orientation
- For the family and friends of Rev. Richard Taber, former pastor at Wilton CC in CT and pastor emeritus at Salisbury Congregational Church. Rev. Taber died on May 24
- For the family and friends of Rev. M Sargent "Des" Desmond, pastor emeritus at Brookfield UCC and former pastor in several churches in New England. Rev. Desmond died on June 1
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the life giving rains and the sunshine that follows
- For the tireless efforts of those advocates and activists who write, call and meet with lawmakers in an effort to see just laws created in our states and nation
This Week in History:
June 12, 2016 (5 years ago) A lone gunman enters the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and opens fire. He killed 49 people before barricading himself in the building with hostages. The shooter was later killed when police stormed the building. In all, fifty people were killed and dozens more injured. The club was hosting a Latin-theme dance party and many of the patrons were members of the Latinx LGBTQ community. The Historic Connecticut and Massachusetts conferences responded with a team of clergy sent to support and give witness in the aftermath of the shooting. More conference stories related to the Orlando shooting can be found here.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”