03/25/20 – Singing in a Pandemic Devotion by Pastor Denise Clark-Jones

Singing in a Pandemic

I loved seeing the news video clips of Italians singing opera choruses together through their open apartment windows. I have always loved music. However, my only experience singing in a choir was when I was 10, singing in my church’s children’s choir. My experience with the director, always unhappy and displeased, given to foot-stamping anger, ended any thoughts of singing in a choir again. To be honest, singing in the choir is not my “calling,” nor where my talents lie. I first sang in an adult church choir after I had been married to Tom for a year. It seemed like a good thing for me to join him in an activity in which he was very passionate.

Early in Tom’s 17-year tenure at a Presbyterian church in Harrisburg, PA, a young singer, Brandon Cedel, showed up for an audition for a bass/baritone section leader. Not expecting much from one so young, Tom was blown away when he started to sing. As the final test – could he sight-read a hymn? — Brandon passed with flying colors. He continued to sing in the church choir throughout high school and then returned to sing solos whenever he was home from college, the prestigious Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia. Brandon is now a professional opera singer. If you want to hear more about Brandon Cedel’s career and performances, you can “Google” him or look on his Facebook page.

Probably because he has more time on his hands, since all professional music performances are canceled due to the COVID-19, Brandon has been posting videos on Facebook of his singing and playing piano in his apartment. This one grabbed my attention because of his introductory line: “I grew up singing in churches as a kid and always loved when the adult choir would sing this anthem.” You will probably recognize from the Presbyterian hymn, “Here I Am, Lord,” the title based on Isaiah 6:8. The six preceding chapters of Isaiah consist of God’s angry tirades at Israel for her unfaithfulness and disobedience. Israel had oppressed the poor, disregarded the most vulnerable and needy, and exploited the earth. When God calls Isaiah to be the prophetic voice to Israel, he responds with both courage and fear: “Here I am, Lord… send me.”

Listen to the anthem…

(click video to listen to the hymn, devotion continues below video)

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The message is that God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. What God has lovingly created; God will sustain. The evil – and that includes natural evil like earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and pandemics – that threatens and harms us, God has promised to redeem so that goodwill emerges from the ashes of destruction. As God returned the people back to their Jewish homeland after the Babylonian Exile, God will restore us and the world. It will not be the same. We will be challenged to adapt to a new world. With the prophets of ancient Israel and the witness of God’s Incarnate Word, Christ Jesus, as our models, we can make the world more peaceful and interdependent. We can be better stewards of the earth God has given us. We can be more thankful for the blessings we have received. We can be more respectful of the rights and innate dignity of all God’s children. We can do as Christ commanded and ‘love others as he has loved us.”

Like Isaiah, we are called to speak God’s truth amidst the din of false and self-serving untruths. In this time of sacrifice, we are called to be models of Christ’s love in our words and in our actions. We are invited to let the Holy Spirit fill us with songs of praise for the life God has so graciously given us to share, whatever our gifts. We can’t all be opera singers, but we can sing a song of love and praise in our own way, with our own gifts and blessings.

Here we are, Lord…send us!

Pastor Denise