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Singing With the Timbered Choir

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 96) transports me to rehearsal time as the most massive mass choir imaginable adds a new composition to its repertoire. Get out the new song! the conductor instructs this worldwide chorale, with a wide range of voices spanning the entire globe. All the earth begins warming up and singing scales, composing itself for the new piece. The new song is a universal declaration of God’s glory among all the nations, including enemy nations and developing nations and superpower nations. The conductor instructs all the families of nations to create tight harmonies as they ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. The conductor then invites all these families of nations to forget about personal space and squeeze into the holy courts, a site previously reserved for only a select few, but now open to all the new song singers. As the holy courts come into view, the conductor adds a tremolo effect as all the earth trembles before the presence of God. The chorus resounds throughout all the nations: The Lord Reigns! God’s justice comes with equity, righteousness, and truth.

Then even more voices join the mass choir – humans aren’t the only ones with the composure to offer praise in this worldwide worshipfest. The sea starts singing, sound waves crashing over and over onto the shore. Schools of minnows generate grace notes of adoration. It’s a phenomenal flash mob, with fields and everything in them – from tassling corn to composting earthworms – joining in the jubilation. And then all the trees of the forest add their overtones of joyful, joyful. I love the thought of the trees giving voice to God’s glory. Oak and hickory and pine and poplar, sycamore and sourwood and locust and maple, each with a distinct sound. It reminds me of Kate Seredy’s wonderful teen novel, The Singing Tree, set in Word War I Europe. In one scene, a group of terrified soldiers crawl throughout the night in a field of mud, trying to avoid the enemy. There is no sign of life in the war-ravaged landscape. As the sun rises, it reveals one lone tree there on the horizon, filled with scores of birds that don’t normally congregate, singing together. This singing tree of hope reminds me of Wendell Berry’s poem, Great Trees, which has these verses:

Slowly, slowly, they return to the small woodland let alone:
Great trees, outspreading and upright,
apostles of the living light.
Patient as stars, they build in air,
tier after tier a timbered choir,
Stout beams upholding weightless grace of song,
a blessing on this place.

The blessed new song is a message of radical hope, of the inclusive peace of Jesus that invites all the families of the earth to be a part of the song. It is a song of peace between the earth and its inhabitants, as all the world shares praise for God’s glory. It is what Pete Seeger sang about in his revision of the OId Hundred hymn, Sing peace between the grass and trees, Between the continents and seas, Between the lion and the lamb. Between young Ivan and young Sam. The fish that swim, the birds that fly, The deepest seas, the stars on high,  Bear witness now that you and I sing peace on earth and sea and sky. All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluia!


*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Household of Faith.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.


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