Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy. – Psalm 98:8 (NRSV)
Among all the losses the pandemic has brought to local churches, one we feel most keenly in the congregation I serve is not being able to sing together.
Music, especially singing, is at the heart of everything we do. Before “corona-time,” worship began with a sung introit, followed by singing with children. By the end of worship, we’d sung 5 to 6 hymns, and the choir 2 or 3 more. Church council meetings ended with song, as did the annual meeting. We sang grace before potlucks and barbeques. Our youth and children sang whenever they gathered, too.
The pandemic silenced all that community singing. Yes, our recorded services include solos and quartets. We’ve done virtual hymn-sings and even a couple in-person sings (socially distanced and masked “Hymn Hums” with recorded music). But none of those experiences equal the power and connection of joining in full-throated community song.
Into the void comes Psalm 98, reminding us that human beings are not the only creatures who sing. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth,” the psalmist proclaims, “break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” For the psalmist, all means all: “Let the sea roar! Let the floods clap their hands! Let the hills sing together for joy.”
The composer Randall Thompson affirmed, “All creation sings ‘Alleluia’ all the time.” The singing of the birds, the cat purring on my lap, my dog sighing in her sleep. All creatures making a joyful noise in their own way.
Creator God, until we can again burst into song together, may we hear the hills, seas, birds, dogs, cats, and all your earth singing your Alleluia for us. Amen.