August 12, 2007
"A Chance To Sing"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
In the middle of the soloist's anthem at church one Sunday, a young boy turned to his grandmother and whispered, "She can't sing very well, can she?"
Grandma knew the woman had had a deep love for God so she said, "Well, she sings from her heart. That's what makes it good." He nodded thoughtfully.
Several days later they were riding together and singing along with the radio when the grandson turned to his grandmother and said, "Gramma, you sing from your heart, don't you?" (1)
I remember the choir in one church and the reason I remember it is because of one woman, Mary Charlotte. From the very first time I heard them, I knew there was something wrong but I didn't say anything to the Choir director or the organist. Then one Sunday a glorious, harmonious sound came out of the choir loft. I complimented the Choir and Choir Director profusely. After the service I talked to the organist and said, "Well, I see you got the organ fixed."
She looked at me like I was nuts and didn't know what I was talking about. Then the truth dawned on her. She started laughing and said, "Oh, Mary Charlotte's not here today."
It was the first Sunday since I'd been there that Mary Charlotte hadn't been in Church. But what could I really say, "She loved to sing. She sang with all the enthusiasm of a High School Cheerleader. Her mother had sung in the choir and Mary Charlotte had sung in the choir since she was 14. For sixty years she had sung praises to God. At one time Mary Charlotte had a beautiful voice and that's how most of the congregation heard her, through the filter of their memory. But for a first time listener it was a small bit of shock. Mary Charlotte sang from her heart."
This morning we look at a brief passage that tells about a Chance Encounter with a man who is finally given the Chance To Sing. Let's look at Matthew 9:32-34 (NRSV)
 After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him.
 And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, "Never has anything like this been seen in Israel."
 But the Pharisees said, "By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons."
Forget about the detractors who just didn't get it. We know what the Pharisees were like. In this Chance Encounter with Jesus, this man was given A Chance To Sing. He found his voice and was enabled to Sing The Lord's Song.
You and I are called to find our voices. You and I are called to sing The Lord's Song. Through Jesus, you and I are given A Chance To Sing.
A. POTENTIAL: Some of us remain mute and don't sing The Lord's Song because we don't know our own potential. Did you know that Michaelangelo started forty-four statues, but he only completed fourteen of those statues? In a museum in Italy, you can see his thirty unfinished works. There are huge chunks of marble with only a hand, or a foot, or a leg completed.
Our Christian lives are like those unfinished statues. Until we find our calling, until we find that area of ministry in which God has called us to serve, until we find our voice, the potential for beauty and especially the potential for our purpose in God's service is still locked up within us just like those unfinished figures of Michaelangelo's are still locked in the stone. (2)
We have the POTENTIAL, we just have to start singing.
B. DON'T KNOW THE WORDS: Sometimes we don't sing because we don't know the words.
One Sunday during the evening service someone noticed their five year old singing out loudly and enthusiastically while they were singing the chorus, "Soon and very soon we're going to see the King..."
But when they listened a little closer the five year old was actually singing: "Soon and very soon, we're going to Burger King." (3)
Sometimes we don't sing the Lord's Song simply because we don't know the words. That's what Worship, Fellowship, Prayer and Bible Study are all about, learning the words so we can Sing The Lord's Song.
C. BEEN TOLD WE CAN'T SING: Some of us don't sing because we've been told we can't sing. There was a concert in Philadelphia. One of the movements featured a flute solo that was to be played as if coming from a distance. The conductor had instructed the flutist to stand off stage where he was to count the measures precisely in order to come in at the exact time, since there could be no visual contact between the conductor and the soloist.
On the performance night when the time came for the flute solo, the flutist began exactly. The fine, lilting notes floated out beautifully. Suddenly, there was a sudden squeaking sour note and the soloist was silent. Well, of course, the conductor was outraged and at the end of the piece he rushed off stage to find the poor flutist.
The player was prepared. He said, "Maestro, before you say anything let me tell you what happened, but really, you're not going to believe it. You know I came in accurately, and everything was going beautifully, when suddenly, this enormous stage hand ran up, grabbed away my flute, and pushed me back, saying, "Shut up, you idiot! Don't you know there's a concert going on out there?" (4)
For some of us, that's been the experience of our lives. Someone has told us we don't have any potential, that we'd never amount to a hill of beans. Or the experiences of life have pounded that message into us. And they said it so many times that we began to believe it. But the truth is, just like the man who was mute, Jesus can change everything. Jesus can change our own perception of ourselves. He can heal the wounds and undo the memories that are holding us back. And through the forgiveness he offers he can create in us new hearts that can Sing The Lord's Song.
D. HAVEN'T FOUND OUR VOICE: Some us don't sing because we haven't Found Our Voice. We have no clue what God is calling us to do. We don't know what part to sing.
There was a little boy who loved to listen to music but was bitterly disappointed because he could neither play nor sing. Luckily there was a kindly gentleman who encouraged him with these words: "There are many ways of making music. What matters is the song in your heart."
That little boy took the man at his word. And he learned to make music another way. Antonio Stradivarius became the world's greatest violin maker. He Found His Voice. He had a Chance To Sing and he sang the Lord's Song. (5)
You see, like that man, I believe that there are many ways to make music. There are many ways to Sing The Lord's Song. And they all begin by giving your life to Christ. All we have to do is put our life in His hands so He can fine tune us and open the potential and help us Find Our Voice through service and ministry within the Church.
A. FOR OTHERS: Once we Find Our Voice then we discover that a major part of the singing Lord's Song is singing it FOR OTHERS.
Everyone in the small town called her Grandma Richardson. One late afternoon Grandma Richardson looked out of her window to see a group of men on her porch. It was a familiar sight in a coal town. She knew what had happened before the men told her. Her husband had been killed in a mining accident.
The years passed slowly. Life was difficult. Grandma Richardson was admired by everyone in town because of her courage and unwavering faith. She and her children attended church almost every week. Then there was another knock on her door. Her oldest son had been killed in another mine accident.
Grandma Richardson grew older and weaker. But in the spring and summer, when the weather was warm, she would sit on her front porch, rocking in her rocking chair, softly singing the hymns of faith that she had learned by heart. Children would gather around and listen to her tell Bible stories.
Then it happened again. Another son was killed in the mine. After the funeral Grandma Richardson was again sitting on her porch rocking in her favorite chair, softly singing hymns of faith. One of the children who saw her sitting there asked her, "Grandma Richardson, aren't you sad today?"
"Yes," she replied, "I am sad, very sad. It's hard to say good-bye to someone you love, and I've had to do it three times. But," she told the children, "I have something more than sadness inside of me." Then she spoke of her faith.
"Can you give us some," one of the children asked.
"Why children," Grandma Richardson answered, "I've been giving it to you for years now. It's knowing that God loves you and that He has made one promise that's a gift, the most valuable gift in the world. God promised that no matter what happens, no matter how good or bad things may be, regardless of your joy or sorrow, God will not leave you alone." (6)
That's God's promise for each of us. It's part of our baptism. Jesus told us, "I will not leave you orphaned." God promises to walk with us no matter what. A lot of people have never heard that part of The Lord's Song. So we're called to raise our voice and sing it loud and clear like Grandma Richardson. We're called to Sing The Lord's Song FOR OTHERS.
B. IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: We're also called to Sing The Lord's Song IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. That's the hard part, isn't it? But Jesus sang the Lord's Song even from the Cross when He called to God and said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." You and I are called to follow His model and Sing The Lord's Song IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.
In a far country there lived a band of minstrels who traveled from town to town playing music to make their living. They hadn't been doing well. Times were hard; there was little money for common folk to come to hear the minstrels, even though their fee was small. Attendance had been falling off and early one evening the group met to discuss their plight.
"I see no reason for opening tonight," one of them said. "To make things even worse than they may have been, it is starting to snow. Who's going to venture out on a night like this?"
"I agree," said another disheartened singer. "Last night we performed for just a handful. There'll be even fewer tonight. Why don't we give back their meager fees and cancel the concert? Nobody can expect us to go on when just there's just a few people in the audience."
A third member asked, "Yeah, how can anybody do their best for so few?" Then he turned to another sitting beside him. "What do you think?"
This man was older than the others and obviously the leader. He looked straight at his troupe. "I know you're discouraged. I am too. But we have a responsibility to those who might come. We'll go on. And we'll do our best. It's not the fault of those who've come that others didn't. They shouldn't be punished with less than the best we can give."
Heartened by his words, the minstrels went ahead with their show. They never performed better. When the show was over and the small audience was gone, the old man called his troupe members together. In his hand was a note, handed to him by one of the audience just before the doors closed. "Listen to this, my friends!" There was something electrifying about the way he said it that made them all stop what they were doing and listen as the old man read: "Thank you for a beautiful performance." It was signed very simply: "Your King."
You and I are called to Sing The Lord's Song to the best of our ability IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES because we never know who will be in the audience. Besides, we know we're always singing for God.
I'm not sure how it has happened but somehow over the years, about forty percent of churchgoers seem to have picked up the idea that "singing in church is just for singers."
To put it bluntly, that's wrong. The truth is "singing is for believers." The relevant question isn't, "Do you have the right kind of voice?" God has given you a voice. The question should be "Do you have a song? Do you know The Lord's Song." (8)
And if you know the Lord's Song, there's no excuse not to sing. You see, there's no mouth so broken, no monotone so horrible, no voice so tremulous, that God can't take it and compose it into a beautiful symphony.
We're simply called to Sing The Lord's Song like the mute who was finally given A Chance To Sing. As a matter of fact, that's how we're supposed to respond to Christ.
Jesus came singing love. Jesus lived singing love. Jesus died singing love. But Jesus rose in silence. If The Lord's Song is to continue, then we have to do the singing.
The Lord's Song awaits your Response. Jesus sang straight from His heart and He offers you A Chance To Find Your Voice, A Chance To Sing.
1. Barbara McKeever, Urbana, Ohio. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom."
2. Preaching, January-February 2004
3. Preaching Vol. 14, #3, (from Larry Hatfield)
4. Dynamic Preaching, Feb, 1987, Vol. II, No. 2, page 3 (Christian Communication Laboratory, Knoxville, TN).
5. From the devotional "Daily Walk," June 7, 2000, submitted by David Parsons, Santa Rosa, California
6. James L. Henderschedt, THE LIGHT IN THE LANTERN, (San Jose, CA: Resource Publications, Inc., 1991), pp. 63-67.
7. PE February 1984
8. Donald Hustad. Leadership-Vol. 3, #1, adapted.
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