My church choir amazed the congregation yesterday. Five of us and our director pumped out the volume of thirty singers, blended into the voice of one, and saturated the sanctuary with the spirit of a thousand worshippers ecstatic for God. If we weren’t holding music, we would’ve lifted our hands as we sang, “and I lift my hands and pray, to be only yours I pray,” from Only Hope (Mandy Moore’s solo in the film A Walk to Remember). After our accompanist sounded her last melancholy note, there were Wows and a smattering of applause. We’re still waiting for a ruling on whether or not it’s kosher to clap after the choir sings––after all, we are definitely not performing.
I don’t intend to brag, but our choir routinely knocks the socks and support hose off the congregation. And to be truthful, we’re not that great. We’ll never cut an album. We do have some local talent–– you’ll find our choir director singing with The Dulcimer Girls; our tenor writes the occasional song and sings karaoke, as does our bass, son of a Methodist minister who grew up in a church band. One alto confesses, “I’m not very good” saying she has more enthusiasm than talent; the other sings mainly with her preschool class; I sang in school choir from fourth to eighth grade, but I never could read music. And, every now and then someone who likes to sing in the shower will join us for a few months. Put us together, and you’d expect to have an okay choir, a small group of middle-aged folks you’d smile at indulgently during worship, while you opened your Bible to prepare for the scripture readings, thinking They’re no Amy Grant and Vince Gil, but it’s sweet of them to try.
What we have instead is something radically unexpected. We amaze ourselves. Our choir director will get goose bumps, my scalp will tingle, I’ll feel lightheaded. Sure signs that The Spirit is present and has not only carried us away but has flowed through, magnified and united our breath and intention, creating an offering, an outpouring that not only blesses us in rehearsal and keeps us carving time in our busy schedules to scarf down a quick snack before Thursday night practice week after week, but blesses and refreshes the congregation during Sunday worship. Spirit drenched music pours into us, through us, fills the sanctuary and the people in the pews. God magnifies us, and in turn we magnify the Lord, as instructed by our ancient psalmists, who were, of course, song leaders.
The thing that transports and transforms our choir is more of that whenever-two-or-more-are-gathered miracle-working. It’s the leaven added to the loaf. It’s the sum being greater than the parts, which might be mathematical, rather than Biblical, but still true. It’s that Jesus, sneaking in unexpectedly, with answers to questions no one thought to ask, squeezing abundance from scratch when bread and fish were in short supply. My church choir is just one more invitation to the banquet. Take this bread and eat. I have a recording of yesterday’s Only Hope, of the soul sizzling beauty we created together with God. I can’t stop playing it. When we swell to double forte and my chest constricts as if Jesus is sitting on a ventricle, I ask myself––if our little choir can do that, is anything impossible with God?