A short evangelistic talk given during the interval of a church concert.
This is our final lunchtime concert of the season. And in the best show biz tradition we're going to end on a song.
But why? Why is singing such a fitting ending? Why do our great stories finish with weddings, feasting and singing? What is it about a song that sums things up so nicely?
It might feel an obvious thing, but when you face the reality of our lives, you have to ask questions.
You see all our bright, bold love songs end up fading.
Our green salad days don't last do they?
Kingdoms rise, but then they fall.
And if you believe the scientists, the universe is headed for a deep freeze or a big crunch. But either way their forecasted ending is not happy. It's not weddings, and feasting and joy! So why sing?
This comes close to home in our own lives. We may bloom for a season, but it doesn't last.
As Psalm 103 says:
15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
I said those words at the crematorium on Monday, taking the funeral of a woman who spent the last decade of her life lost in a fog of dementia. That’s hardly ending on a song is it?
And yet - we did sing. Many from the church here who knew Betty sang and sang loud, with hope filling our hearts. Why? Just to keep our spirits up? Defiance against the harsh realities of life?
No. We sang because we knew, and Betty knew, a deeper reality to life. There's a deeper story than the blooming-then-dying story.
The bible begins with perfect harmony. That perfect trio of Father, Son and Spirit - a major chord of life and joy. And so they wanted their trio to spread – they wanted a quartet – us!
And so creation - the overflow of their exuberant life.
Then the dischordant note of the fall – human beings ripping up the music, singing their own tune, bringing disharmony, chaos, darkness. That's what we see when we look out on our world.
What was God to do? Well Jesus, that Second Note of the Divine Triad, He descended into our mess. And when the second note of a major chord descends, what do you get? You get a minor chord.
Our God has entered into our sad songs. And He's sung them Himself. All those Psalms in the Old Testament were the songs of a people - so often suffering in this dischordant world. And Jesus took all those heart-felt cries on His own lips. And He carried our sorrows and our sins to the cross where He sang that bleakest of all songs; the one that begins "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1). He truly entered into the depths of our sorrows - knowing our sufferings from the inside.
But then, on Easter Sunday, He rose. He went through the tragedy and into a divine comedy. There is a happy ending. The minor fall gives way to the major lift. Jesus ascended back up to God and He invites us up with Him - to sing with Him. He descended to sing our songs in a minor key. Then He ascended and invites us to sing His songs in a major key.
There is a way through the sad songs and into triumph and joy. At the end of all things is not death and decay, but when He returns it will be a feast - a wedding feast - where we are invited to join Jesus in the eternal song: the Hallelujah chorus,
Hallelujah – for the LORD God Omnipotent Reigneth (Rev 19:6)
That's the deep story, the original story. And I submit to you that it's the only story that makes sense of our desire to end on a song. Otherwise every song we sing is like whistling in the graveyard to keep up our spirits.
So why do you love singing? Are you fighting against the inexorable pull of the grave? When you enjoy music, are you trying to make merry in face of the inevitable? Or are you tapping into the deepest reality - that Jesus has secured a future of victory, joy, immortality, feasting and singing.
At the crematorium that's why we sang. Not a grim determination to make merry in a dying world, but a defiant proclamation that Jesus has won the victory and that when we see Betty again we will sing!
So what about you? What is reality as far as you're concerned? Does death have the final word or will you sing the Hallelujah chorus?
Come to All Souls on a Sunday and find out how you can participate in the real story and end on a song.