By Cindy Koch –
The clouds hung low this last Sunday morning. Already shivering as I stepped outside, I called back to the hustling brood to grab their jackets before we piled in the car. Damp palm trees and lonely puddles hinted that it was about to rain, but only a gray mist colored our morning drive to church. The children and I traveled together in unusual silence, taking in the gloom.
Three minutes late to church, the six of us loudly tiptoed into the sanctuary, peeling off our coats and scooting past the punctual (forgiving) members to our usual pew, seven rows from the back. Finally, we were all seated and quiet. I glanced at the kids and did a quick count to confirm we all made it, but then I noticed one with unbrushed hair, another with unmatched socks, and of course, the boy grabbed the dirtiest jacket he could find.
Suddenly, my oldest daughter grabbed my arm. “Mom, am I supposed to sing this morning?” Frantically, she scanned the church for the other Psalm cantor. I didn’t know. She snuck over to the organist after the first hymn, whispered to him, and did not return to the seat next to me. I guessed it was her Sunday to sing.
Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes…
A hauntingly clear voice cut through the quiet rustle of the worship service. Words that were so familiar but so beautiful caught me by surprise. This song was so loud and confident that a few people in front looked over their shoulder.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
My seventeen-year-old daughter sang these words this morning, and I was overcome with what my little girl confessed with her lips. Her hope danced in the ears of the whole church with a sweet song. How can she keep her way pure? By desperately clinging to the Word of Christ.
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments.
This is the song from my teenage girl, who has had her proper share of adolescent vices, trials, and punishments. Often she recalls that her heart has loved something else. Many times she remembers God’s commands she had broken. She knows this is not the description of her own will, and yet she sings strong and unashamed.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Her song, the Church’s song, Christ’s song, has been stored up in her young heart since she was baptized at six days old. I turned to my other four children next to me and saw their ears and hearts pulsing with Christ’s Word as well. But these Words are not their own—the Words that have been washed over black baby hearts and poured into disobedient little ears. Yet, these Words of Christ that fill my children have made them pure.
Blessed are you O Lord, teach me your statutes…
The confident voice of my little girl sharply contrasted the countless sorrows that I have seen in the deep, wide world. An angry world boasts of shallow lies. Crooked men and women call the evil things good. Outside of one’s self, a hope in Christ is shushed and scorned. The Lord’s commands are twisted into a personal résumé, and there our song of hope is silenced.
With my lips, I declare all the just decrees of your mouth.
These decrees are God’s judgment on her. In His justice and righteousness, God says she’s a sinner. She will walk out of this church and step into a dank, sinful world. She will measure her thoughts, words, and deeds and fall far from God’s mark. This morning, for her, God’s music of righteousness is only beautiful because Christ sings it. Her lips chant the melody, but His breath speaks about joy in God’s justice.
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much in all riches…
As she sings on, I wonder about the path before her. There are so many distractions and temptations. I am afraid for my little girl. Will His righteous Law continue to kill her deadly pride? Will His life-saving Gospel give her comfort more than all the vain riches of this life? I worry that the Evil One will seduce her to sing his song. I worry that her sinful heart will desire to sing to the god of herself. I worry that this world will shout too loudly, so much that she can’t hear Christ’s everlasting song from his empty tomb.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
But here her voice rhythmically meditates. Here her ears are filled with a Savior that has rescued her from death. Here her steps walk beside poor miserable sinners that have been declared saints. Here her mouth is fed with forgiveness. Here her eyes are fixed on Jesus Christ and her eternal home.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Oh, my daughter, do you know what you sing? Your words come from the obedient Son who dwells in you. Your words sing love for God’s commands. Your song sings freedom from death and the devil. Your voice sings of a restored relationship with the Creator of everything. He makes a promise as you sing. Christ will never falter or forget the Word of the Father. He will always be there for you.
The service continued, and my daughter found her way back to our pew. Her steps were light and happy; her smile was genuine. She truly loves singing the introits during worship services. I gulped down a little lump of emotion when I saw her simple delight in the Word of God.
I watched her sit next to her sisters and brother, open a hymnal, and join in the great song of the Christian Church. The little ones followed, singing together more Words of life everlasting and hope in Jesus. But even with all of the disheveled untrained voices from the rest of our family, I still heard the One who was singing. Christ shone from the tongues of my children today. He gave all of these little singers a sure Word that will never be forgotten.
This Sunday morning, as gray as the sky appeared outside, it was bright and joyful in the house of the Lord. Christ’s Word was sung clearly on the lips of a multitude of sinners. His voice was heard in the judgment courts of God. Both my children and yours sang Christ’s song.