Many things have changed during this pandemic. When our 8:30am worship service resumed on 12 July, it felt very different. For a start, the usual greetings – shaking of hands, hugs and high fives were missing. We were seated far apart from each other and only family members could sit together. It felt a bit out of place to worship in the Multi-Purpose Hall (MPH) as I was so used to our Sanctuary. The Worship Leader and Preacher had to use face shield as required by the authorities. But I must say it was good to see many people come together to worship despite all the changes put in place.
As the service began, what felt most awkward for me was the inability to sing. The singing and music were played over the sound system but we couldn’t join in the singing. We had to sing from our hearts and meditate on the words. A range of emotions ran through me although singing is more than just emotions. It felt very strange not being able to use the very means that we often use to sing praises to God. The voice was silent but every word rang out very loud in my mind.
I thought about the people who cannot sing at all. I thought about people who are persecuted and cannot sing. I thought about the times we could sing but we sang half-heartedly or refused to sing at all. And then I thought about the times we could have sung mindlessly. For a change, I must admit that it felt refreshing to ponder on the words and truly sing from the heart. The words of the songs became more meaningful. Truly, there is a time for everything, a time to sing and a time to keep quiet.
Even if we are unable to sing, there are other things in place that continues to declare God’s glory. Psalm 91:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Creation in its own array continues to praise God. The chorus of our opening song for this Sunday goes:
“All the earth will declare
That Your love is ev’rywhere
The fields will exalt, seas resound
Hear the trees’ joyful cry
Praising You and so will I
A new song I’ll sing Lord
I will glorify and bless Your holy name”
(Words & Music by Andrew Ulugia, Jack Hayford & Wayne Huirua)
Creation is not the only thing singing and declaring God’s love. Zephaniah 3:17 surprises us with these words:
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
The prophet Zephaniah was predicting the Babylonian exile and the eventual return of the exiles to Jerusalem. It foresees a time when Yahweh will redeem his people—when they will be freed from exile and allowed to return to Jerusalem. Yahweh will be present with his people, and bring Judah victory over her enemies. Even in the midst of judgement that has come upon God’s people, this verse describes a miracle of grace for a people who betrayed him time and again.
To these people who have known much turmoil, the reality of God’s love will bring peace as they begin to realize that God has provided them security. God’s love is not found in the deserving nature of people but in the loving nature of God. Here we are given a picture of a loving God who quietens his children, like a mother who sings to calm the children in distress. Then there is also the picture of God singing loudly! The Lord’s joy in restoring his people is celebrated in a song!
Given the circumstances around us, we will not be able to sing for some time. At this juncture, our singing is considered dangerous. But when God sings, it is a picture of healing and celebration. Until such a time when we can sing again, I pray that during this pandemic, we will allow God’s voice to be heard- to quieten our troubled hearts and fill us with His spirit anew. May we as a people of God bring joy unto the Lord and may we hear His songs of peace and joy over us.
Pr Loliro Sani
August 2, 2020