“Singing for Our Lives”

Sermon August 16, 2015

Ephesians 5:15-20, Psalm 111

“Singing for Our Lives”


Begin with Carol singing “We are a gentle, angry people and we are singing, singing for our lives…”


The song that Carol just sang appears in the Unitarian Hymnal. It has been sung by thousands of people at gatherings for equality. People hoping for a world that is peaceful and just have sung it. It is a song of hope and a song of longing. Singing is a powerful expression of faith. It binds us together in worship. It calls us to action. It calls us to pray. It calls us to the Christian life in ways we can’t ignore.


This month, we invited you to share your favorite hymns and we will sing them as God’s beloved community. Many of these hymns will take us to a particular context and flood us with memories, but they may also fill us with longing for something in the present. The writer to the Ephesians continues the instructions on being a community and they are pretty simple this week:


  1. Make the most of your time
  2. Sing
  3. Give thanks at all times


Take #1, make the most of your time: we can talk about time management and get some helpful tips. That’s a good thing to do, but the gist of this is that we are called to make every moment count. This week, some moments that really counted for me were visiting with some of our members, a book group conversation, even a few meetings, early morning runs, time with our youth, some text messages to tell people I care about them, and right now…worship with you. Think about #2, sing: As we sing together, we experience a kind of unity that doesn’t often happen in other settings. In fact, “According to a study published in the journal Frontiers of Neuroscience, when members of a choir sing together, their heart rates tend to synchronize and beat as one. A team of Swedish researchers led by Björn Vickhoff discovered that this synchronicity can produce a sense of calm that is similar to the effects of yoga.” http://healthland.time.com/2013/07/10/many-hearts-one-beat-singing-synchs-up-heart-rates/


If you have been thinking about joining the choir, that’s a pretty good commercial for it. Not only is it fun, it’s good for you!!


I read several studies this week about singing and learned some interesting stuff.


“All types of singing have positive psychological effects. The act of singing releases endorphins, the brain's "feel good" chemicals... But of all types of singing, it's choral singing that seems to have the most dramatic effects on people's lives. A study published in Australia in 2008 revealed that on average, choral singers rated their satisfaction with life higher than the public -- even when the actual problems faced by those singers were more substantial than those faced by the general public [source: MacLean]. A 1998 study found that after nursing-home residents took part in a singing program for a month, there were significant decreases in both anxiety and depression levels [source: ISPS]. Another study surveying more than 600 British choral singers found that singing plays a central role in their psychological health” [source: ISPS].


“The physiological effects of singing are fairly well-documented. For those who doubt its power, just look at songbirds: When male songbirds sing to female songbirds, it activates the pleasure center of the male's brain. In fact, scientists have discovered that the effect of singing on the birds' brains is similar to the effect of addictive drugs on human brains [source: EurekAlert]. But there's a caveat. That effect doesn't happen when the birds are singing alone. As it turns out, singing's effect on humans has a similar caveat.” http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/singing-happy2.htm


Stacy Horn, author of a book called Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness While Singing with Others says, “What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.”


We can take that simple prescription from Ephesians and add it to the Psalm, which calls us to praise God. The Psalmist reminds us of all that God has done for us. What else can we do, but praise? When you want to praise God, what do you sing? What is your song of gratitude?


Singing calls us to hope against all odds. Singing was a powerful form of expression and community for the slaves. It continued through the civil rights movement and into today.


“Harriet Tubman, cook, nurse, spy, army scout, guerilla fighter, and most significantly, conductor/guide in the Underground Railroad used spirituals as signal songs in her many journeys freeing slaves. These songs contained coded messages warning travellers of danger or to signal a clear path. Two of her 'signature' songs "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Go Down, Moses" are prime examples.” (http://www.earlygospel.com/eg-origins.htm)


“We Shall Overcome” immediately calls us to think of the Civil Rights marches.


A Denver-based choir was formed to celebrate the transformative power of song in the civil rights movement and beyond.The Spirituals Project, a social activism choir that sings and teaches songs originally sung by slaves, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of civil rights protests in Selma, Ala., and the passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Daryl Walker, performance director for the choir said,

"It was never just about singing. The songs were messages that gave strength to endure and create lasting solidarity. It spoke to social change back then and today," http://newsok.com/let-freedom-sing-spirituals-project-coming-to-broomfield-to-celebrate-civil-rights-movement/article/feed/815006


Singing has the power to change us. Singing has the power to help us change the world. Isn’t that what we are called to do?


Congregation is invited to join in singing:


Singing For Our Lives

By Holly Near


We are a gentle, angry people

and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a justice-seeking people

and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are young and old together

and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a land of many colors

and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are gay and straight together

and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a gentle, loving people

and we are singing, singing for our lives