NMC Blog

Hallelujah Chorus

Hallelujah Chorus

I often ask myself – “What is church for anyway?” Why do we do this thing we call church? Maybe the answer can be found in the Hallelujah Chorus. It is a tradition on Easter mornings at Neffsville to close the service by singing together that very song. All are invited to join along in praising God. I am not sure when, or by whom the practice was started, but it is an Easter Morning staple. Many wonderful memories come to my mind as I think about it.

One of those memories… Years AND years ago, I remember a young Garry North lip-syncing the song as if he was singing at the top of his lungs. There was no one there to limit his exuberance. His talented mother was playing the piano and his father was singing in the chorus up front. That 6–8-year-old boy is now an elder of the church and the father of two of his own energy-filled children. I can imagine little Serenity one day following in her father’s footsteps and lip-syncing that powerful song as older brother Cam looks at her with discomfort. “Where did she come from and where are the exuberance limiters?”

My first Easter Sunday at Neffsville as a young adult in the late 90’s, I watched as my Uncle Jerry marched up to the front of the sanctuary with the body of Christ to sing his praises to God. “Does Uncle Jerry sing?” I am not sure if he ever sang in a choir, but every Easter he was a part of that one. It was incredibly meaningful to him. I wish that I had asked him why. These memories tell me that the chorus is an experience that impacts all ages and all types of people. Church “should” be that experience – engaging all generations, personalities and peoples to be more like Jesus.

During the Hallelujah Chorus, everyone is invited to worship God together. No one is checking theological leanings or asking about one’s political views or thoughts on same-sex marriage. We lay down our differences to make a joyful noise together and it is glorious. Children come forward to sing, baptized or not – doesn’t matter in the least. Family from afar, those who “can’t sing,” choir members, once-a-year church attenders, people who need “walkers” to get down the aisle, professional Opera singers and everything in between – all are welcome to the choir to worship God - together. Church should be this way. Of course, we stand for Jesus and we do our best to teach, preach and live into spiritual truth, but all are welcome to bend a knee and worship the God of Grace and Glory – together. That is church. As church historian Garry Sattler says, “We are all a bunch of bozos on a bus in need of a driver!”

In church, we often need others to support or inspire us. One church member has told me that he goes up to “sing” in the Hallelujah Chorus choir simply to be in the middle of it all. He is one who professes that he “cannot sing”, but he loves to be in the middle of the glorious praise. Each part of the body has its own gifts. Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of something glorious, just listening. Each gift is important as we walk our journey with Jesus together. Each gift is a blessing to the body of Christ. Our faith grows as we look around and are lifted up by the body.

I was sitting in “the pastor pew” up front. Only 3 feet away from me, a 92-year-old, not-so-steady grandmother, was held up by her two lovely granddaughters. They were there to support their grandma, to lend a steady hand so that she could worship her lord and savior. But she was also there to support them. The granddaughters were there to grieve the loss of their mother. Their mother grew up singing in that choir herself. Music was their mother’s gift and worship her love language to God. In church, sometimes we need one another to stay standing when our limbs have worn out and don’t have the strength. And other times, we just need to know that someone is present with us as we grieve.

Inspiration! During the song, Director of Worship, Rashard Allen called out the musical parts. When he called upon the tenors, Eszter Bjorkman’s father (A professional opera singer), poured all of his giftings into the music. His voice lifted up the entire sanctuary with its beauty, power, and clarity. What a gift! Witnessing the use of God’s gifts to empower our community is a special and holy moment. I hope we always have the capacity to notice those gifts being used. It happens all around us – daily. God’s gifting, people supporting, finding God in the middle of it all, and inviting all to come worship is what church is all about. We walk and sing together. Together – that is a beautiful word. I do love that tradition.

On any given Sunday morning, we sing, we pray, we listen to sermons and read scripture. We do this together. We have to do this together. Church can be messy, church is messy, but it is the body of Christ – no more and no less than a people called to bless the world and grow in discipleship – together. We never know what part we will play. We might be the supported, the supporter, the one that listens, or the one that carries us all to a deeper place with God. We might be the little boy lip-syncing a song with exuberance or the one sitting near him watching. We might be the elders, the missionaries, the teachers, the mentors, the prayers, the builders, the greeters and on and on – we are church together. We need one another to make a joyful noise – to be the body of Christ.


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