If you ask an audience in New York City, a relatively Lutheranless place, to sing along on the chorus of ‘Michael Row the Boat Ashore,’ they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their under-wear. But if you do this among Lutherans they’ll smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road! Lutherans are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony. It’s a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage. It’s natural for Lutherans to sing in harmony. We’re too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. I once sang the bass line of Children of the Heavenly Father in a room with about three thousand Lutherans in it; and when we finished, we all had tears in our eyes, partly from the promise that God will not forsake us, partly from the proximity of all those lovely voices. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.
Leave it to Keilor to pick a Swedish Hymn but …….
He makes an interesting point. Singing in 4 part harmony is a great picture that comes from Matthew 18. We use that passage a lot when we don’t want to get a long or when we believe that someone else is causing problems, but the whole chapter is about ‘harmony”. Jesus said, “”Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” The word used here is our word for “symphony”. It means ‘sounding together’. It does not mean singing the same notes. It means ‘sounding together’ the same piece of music. To harmonize means I sing a note and you sing a note and the other folks sing their notes and they are different notes but they come together into a beautiful piece of music.
Sadly I think for many in our circles “symphony” means we all sing the same lock step, one note piece. Forgiveness means you do it my way, and reconcilation means you tell me your sorry and I continue doing what I always have. Those attitudes do not have God’s blessing. To live in God’s symphony means that we believe that He will not forsake us and we won’t forsake each other. In our life together we depend upon Him being in the midst of us.