It is a family tradition. Tonight the matrons of the Walton clan (no relation to John Boy; and likewise not to that other well known family by the same name) got together one last time for awhile. The Lovely Lady’s mother and her sisters have enjoyed another wedding in the family, but goodbyes are imminent and a meal with a little music afterward seemed as good a way as any to close out their time together. When I mention the family tradition, I don’t mean eating, although they always do that; I don’t even mean the music afterward, even though it too is a common occurrence.
The family tradition which is the subject of my thoughts tonight is the activity which occurs immediately before the meal. And, it’s not asking the blessing for the food, although that also has been done. I refer to what happens just after the “Amen” is spoken. One of the younger adults in the group hums a note and immediately the room is full of the sound of voices raised in harmony, as the “Doxology” is sung without accompaniment. As the words, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow”, begin, I realize once again that this family knows how to sing! From the oldest, approaching her nineties, on down to the youngest twenty-something here, everyone participates.
Without any previous discussion, every vocal part is covered, from the sopranos who carry the melody, through the lower female voices singing out the alto parts and the upper men’s voices that fill the air with the tenor notes. The basses are not left behind as their low, resonant notes blend with all the others. I do see a raised eyebrow as one of them realizes that the starting pitch was a little lower than usual, so the root note is a little further down there than he is accustomed to. Nevertheless, they carry the part admirably and the room is alive with voices, youthful as well as ancient, raised in harmonious thanks to a loving and beneficent God.
As the last note of the too-short song hangs and then dies in the air, there is a momentary quiet, a hush, almost of awe–not at the wonderful singing, but simply at the gift of making music together. The silence is broken as a guest at the table, with us for the first time, says simply, “Wow!” We smile, but inwardly I am nodding agreement. Wow, is right. I’ve been part of this family tradition for more than thirty years now and it never ceases to raise the goose-bumps or to bring the tears. I hope it never does.
I don’t have any long-winded morality lesson tonight, no sermonizing to do. I just wanted to stop for a minute and to share my blessings with you. Too often, I am impatient to get to the point, to share my complaint, or to point you in the right direction. That, I’m sure, will come again.
If I have any point to make tonight, it is simply this: Enjoy the music as it happens; love the people who have been placed in your life; and don’t forget to be grateful to the Master of the feast.
Come to think of it, it’s as fine a three point sermon as I’ve ever preached.
“I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
“Music speaks what cannot be expressed,
Soothes the mind and gives it rest,
Heals the heart and makes it whole,
Flows from Heaven to the soul.”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012 All Rights Reserved.