Wineskins Archive

November 23, 2013

Singing Silently (May 2013)

Filed under: — @ 10:38 am and

By Keith Brenton

My wife is dying.

We received the diagnosis in mid-February: stage IV pancreatic cancer, metastasized to the liver. The cancer continued to spread at the same time that our teenage daughter was having her fiercest battle ever with depression.

I kept on going to church on Sunday mornings, even when they couldn’t. Sometimes I was buoyed enough by my small church family and extraordinary home community that I could teach and even preach.

My wife Angi was doing well enough — and church friends dear enough to look after her — when my daughter and I took a quick spring break weekend trip back to our old home church family. It’s about 600 miles away and about 300 times bigger.

It was a blessing to be there, and receive in person the love, concern, hugs and worship surround of dear brothers and sisters on Easter Sunday. I felt like worshiping. I felt like praising God, singing with His Spirit, glorifying Him through His Son. I was singing right along.

Right up until the projection screens lit up with the lyrics of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul.”

And I could not sing.

I could not lie to my God in song.

It is not well with my soul.

I tried to swallow down the heartbreak and cough up the courage. I tried to let my old church family minister to me in song; assure me that there would be a time once again when I could silently sing along with their song, and perhaps even a time ahead when I could sing their song aloud.

But not yet. Not yet.

* * *

This edition of New Wineskins is number one hundred. Edition number one hundred should call for some kind of of celebration: Twenty-two years ago to the month, the original Wineskins Magazine was published and distributed by co-founding editors Mike Cope and Rubel Shelley, a lovely and courageous four-color magazine exploring the questions of faith too-long ignored by the churches of Christ specifically, the Restoration Movement churches generally, and the universal Church of Christ in the world God made.

There ought to be self-promotions and links to classic articles and summaries of issues that writers and readers have explored together. But there aren’t.

I must confess that the theme for this edition is heavily influenced by the circumstances in which I find myself and my family … but just days and weeks ago, bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon; there was an explosion of a fertilizer storage facility in West, Texas; and further back, a shooter entered an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. All claimed lives and caused horrific injury. So I also see this choice influenced by the circumstances in which our nation finds itself today.

Nor is the need for lament limited to our time and place; it is worldwide, universal, and dates to the beginning of the human family on this earth.

* * *

Think of this edition as a metaphor. You go into this edition, and into worship, and into the next few days of your life with an incredibly blessed perception of the world around you; an expectation of joy, praise and adoration of God … and something tragic occurs. And your life, your joy, and your praise hit the wall.

Let the words of some of this editions writers take you to those places where some of the people in the church family are living and longing to worship again — or perhaps are not able to worship at all.

Let these articles stimulate your empathy and your questions as well. Share them in the comments.

Here are some of mine:

Should there be moments within our gathered worship when our joy should turn to sorrow?

Moments beyond the Lord’s table?

Is it always required/necessary at the table and only at the table?

In view of the resurrection – the day of which we usually gather at the table – is it appropriate to only mourn?

Are there songwriters and arrangers willing to recast hymns like Heman the Ezrahite’s

Will someone set music to more of the Lamentations than just 3:22-24?

Or David’s Psalm 22

Are there congregations willing to learn and sing those songs?

Is there a truth behind the “happy-clappy” insult that adds fuel to its burn?

Should there be special worship gatherings when church families can mourn and lament together?

Would that better fulfill the instruction of Romans 12:15 and the context of fellowship that embraces it …?

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

How do we square an instruction like that with Philippians 4:4 – particularly when joyful people around the mourning are singing it with all their heart …?

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

If a lament service was scheduled, planned, created and announced … would anybody come?

To misuse a “Star Trek” proverb: Do the needs of the joyful many outweigh the needs of the mournful few?

* * *

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know anything anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.

But if a few articles like these prompts a few questions, I believe they’re worth reading and asking.

If this one hundredth edition makes you more aware that not every hymn of praise must fit the meter and the mood of “Old Hundredth,” then it’s worth solemn celebration.

If within these articles and comments we prod each other to be more aware, more sensitive, more sympathetic to that silent few among us who are singing a dirge within, then our time and effort will not be wasted.

I will be among the silently singing.

Won’t you join me?

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