August 19, 2018 — Rev. Paula Norbert
Today, we celebrate Music Sunday here at Union Church. When I first began to explore the possibility of applying for the position as Pastor here, one of the most important things that people shared again and again was how much they loved the music. That really intrigued me as music is not only important in my own life, but I understand well that it touches almost everyone and is a big draw for people when they think about where they attend church. Music touches very deep places within all of us and it often transcends anything we could put into words. We are blessed at this church with many gifted musicians and I believe that truly enhances our spiritual growth and well-being. Let us pray, We are deeply grateful for the music in our lives, Oh God. May we continue to open our minds and spirits to the ways you speak to us through music as it enriches us, moves within us, and awakens us to your love and joy. Amen.
Some weeks ago, I saw a piece on the Today Show about an amazing director of the Uniondale High School in New York who has gone above and beyond to help her students succeed. For some kids who may have had trouble even showing up to school, she has provided a place where they can become an incredible team, sharing voices and dance, and have a reason to come to school each day. They practice five to six hours a day and often 6 days a week and her students appreciate all of the time that she puts in. When they spoke to some of her students, it became clear that many of them had struggles outside of school. One girl spoke about periods of homelessness, moving from shelter to shelter or staying in other people’s homes. Another young man spoke about how he had behavior issues and had been kicked out of school a number of times. She teaches them discipline and shows them that she cares, providing food, an open door policy, even money when there is a need. Many of them call her mom and after a six-hour practice lasting into the evening, some don’t always want to go home. Something special has been created here, a sense of community tied together through music and dance, love and laughter, and support. The music they create as a show choir moves them and inspires them in all the other areas of their lives. And all of the work has paid off. This past April, they were named the Grand Champions at the National Show Choir finals in Chicago. Music has brought a multitude of gifts to the lives of the youth involved, to their choir director and to all who are blessed to share in the concerts they offer.
Each June for the past six years, Maine Public Radio has featured a wonderful series titled “Music That Moves Me”. If you listen to MPBN, you likely have heard some of the short pieces that have aired over the years. Each Music That Moves ME audio diary features people from across Maine talking about a specific piece of music that has inspired them or impacted their life in some way. They often share a brief story about when this music was especially important at a special moment, perhaps joyful or difficult, from their childhood or more recently, in their lives. I have listened to many of these over the years and they have always been very interesting and often very moving.
I recall hearing one story where she spoke about a piece of classical that happened to be playing in the background on the morning of 9/11 as she watched her young children playing in the other room. As the news broke, a close friend of hers called and they spent time on the phone sharing their grief and worries. Both had young children nearby as they spoke, Whenever she hears that piece of music, it brings her back to that day and reminds her of the consolation she felt as she spent time speaking with her friend during a very sad day in our nation’s history. Other stories speak of joyful moments, times riding in the car when they were children with their parents, or a special party they attended.
We sometimes speak of the soundtrack of our lives, the songs that have been most important to us at various stages in our lives. When we hear a particular song or piece of music, it often takes us back to where we were when we heard it in a special way or it may have been playing in the background at some special time in our lives. This past week, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin died. As they spoke about her contributions to music, many people thought back to which of her songs were among their favorites. Just hearing her voice ring out reminded us of an earlier time in our lives and what may have been going on then. And of course, she began by singing in her own church choir and she sang at the funerals of some of the great civil rights leaders of our time.
I’d like you to take a moment and think about a piece of music that has moved you…something that brings back special moments in your life. We have handed out cards this morning and we’d invite you to reflect on the music that has been important in your life. If you can recall, write down the name of the song or the piece and see if it evokes special memories for you. Perhaps write a sentence or two of what was happening in your life. What feelings does this bring up and why?