Sermon: This May Need a Song

August 19, 2018
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Ephesians 5:15-20

We’ve got a little more good advice this week, both from the letter to the Ephesians and from the story of King Solomon. Seek wisdom, we’re told. Be wise.

In the case of Solomon, wisdom means to govern for the well-being of your people. In Ephesians, it has more to do with living kindly and generously with your neighbors. I suppose kindness and gentleness translate to the well-being of the nation when you’re a ruler.

And while I take due notice of the recommendation that I avoid heavy drinking – that is good advice, too – it was the direction on how to be filled with the Spirit that caught my eye this week.

If you’d like to be filled with the Spirit, how would you go about it?

Sing a song.

“Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.”

To tell you the truth: I’m tired. And I’m sad. And I’m tired of being sad.

In late April, I attended a wonderful retreat program for UCC clergy, intended to help us assess our health – physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, vocationally – and make adjustments so that we could minister more effectively, with less anxiety and stress, with more energy and wisdom, and from a deeper connection to God.

We each drew up covenants, items we would work on as a way to make that progress.

To fill my Spirit: well this may need a song.

I went from there to New England, where we celebrated my father’s 80th birthday in style, telling silly stories and eating too much food. I came back home to work on my covenanted tasks, to shed some anxiety and stress, to find more energy and wisdom, and foster that deeper connection to God.

Before I’d even made it back the ground opened in Puna and we were in the midst of a full-scale natural disaster, with thousands displaced and, as the weeks went on, hundreds of homes lost.

To be of help during a natural disaster: Well, this may need a song.

We all plunged to work. We went to the shelters, we went to meetings, we raised money, and we prayed and we prayed. May turned to June and the lava kept flowing, but even before it stopped it settled into a pretty stable channel and we started to breathe – I started to breathe – again. The shelter populations are falling, and more comfortable if still temporary residences have opened.

Then my father got sick. For a while it looked like he’d recover, but his body had been through too much, and on the first of July he died. Off I went to New England to be with the family, share the memories, to look through old photographs, and to honor him in worship.

To honor him in worship: This may need a song. Actually, it needed two, which I sang with my Boys in Hats partner and dear friend, Paul Bryant-Smith.

It’s been a month now since then. And I’m tired. And I’m still sad. And I’m tired of being sad. I know enough to know that one doesn’t get over being sad in a month – but I’m still tired of being sad. I think I’m not the only one here.

And I haven’t done much on my covenant.

I probably should have put, “Sing” right at the top.

The Scriptures offer abundant tribute to the power of music in human life. Songs are scattered throughout the Bible. Scholars believe that the oldest coherent passage in the Old Testament is in Judges 5, the Song of Deborah. Most of the Psalms were written to be sung. The prophets wrote in verse, and they may have sung their prophecies in the marketplaces. David sang for King Saul to soothe his agitation, and his songs form the heart of the Book of Psalms. Jesus and his friends closed the Last Supper with a hymn before they walked to the Mount of Olives.

This may need a song.

We began our twice monthly Community Sings – there’s one this Friday – because the tension has risen so high in our nation and in our community. The Rev. Dr. Mary Luti tossed it out as a suggestion, and it sounded so good to the Deacons and to me that we went with it. Every second and fourth Friday, we give ourselves to songs that range from silly to sublime, and it does feed our spirits. They fill us with the Spirit.

Because this time may need a song.

Songs aren’t enough. Tom Lehrer famously satirized folk singers with the lyric, “Some people may prefer action, but give me a folk song, any old day.” Sick people need care and treatment. Sad people need a comforting word. Political leaders need to be guided in wisdom, and need to be replaced in office when they seek something other than wisdom instead.

Still. A song is a good place to start.

This sermon may need a song. Not to start – but to end.

“Give Me a Song to Sing”

When my heart is heavy as the leaden sky,
When my vision fails because of clouded eye,
When my courage strains
Against obstacles so high:
Give me a song to sing.


Give me a song to sing
When dawn is breaking.
Give me a song to sing
When my heart is cold.
Give me a song… to sing…
When the heavens flash with glory!
Give me a song.
Let love unfold.

When my neighbors strain to live a life of trial,
When my nation turns to courses that are vile,
When righteousness calls
And hears only denial:
Give me a song to sing.


When the birds sing out their melodies so free,
When the waves and wind keep time in company,
When all Creation’s voices
Rise in harmony:
Give me a song to sing.
Then I’ve been given a song to sing!


[Final Ending]

Give me a song.
Let love unfold.
Give me a song.
Let God’s love unfold.
Give me a song.
Let God’s love unfold.


Listen to the Recorded Sermon (and song)


The likelihood of the prepared sermon ever being identical to the delivered sermon is probably made even lower by the fact that the song doesn’t sound the same, either…

“Give Me a Song to Sing” is copyright © 2018 by Eric Anderson (used by permission). The live recording is also used by permission of the composer and performer. 

Photo by Eric Anderson (that seems like a theme today, doesn’t it?).

Categories Sermons | Tags: , | Posted on August 19, 2018

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1 Comment

  1. by Gloria Kobayashi

    On August 24, 2018

    Just listened to your sermon and your latest song. It does bring comfort and peace to hear you sing your song…as well as to hear your sermon. Sorry, I’ll miss your concert. I’ll have a gift for the calabash and see you on Sunday. When I feel antsy and out of sorts, playing the piano helps me. Playing and singing “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “Jesus Loves Me” with Mikael helps us both to settle down, too. Paul had great wisdom in telling us to sing.
    Thank you for your song!!

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