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Sing a New Song!
In the book, Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom is asked by his childhood rabbi to say his eulogy. Not knowing him that well anymore, Mitch decides to get to know the rabbi a bit better. On one visit, as they sit together, Mitch sees on a pile of stacked papers a file folder marked with the title “GOD”. Mitch is curious and his eye keeps wandering to the file folder. We learn later on in the book, it turns out the rabbi has clipped and saved newspaper articles, ideas, excerpts from books, people’s lived experiences and his own, and placed them in that folder. The rabbi, his whole career, his whole life long, had been looking for where God was active in the world.
Clipped from a newspaper, for my own file folder (though mine is entitled “Sermon Illustrations”) is an article from the newspaper dated April 27, 2012: “Mass Killer Rejected in Song”. Organized through social media sites like Facebook, some 40,000 people gathered in downtown Oslo, and in squares across Norway, to sing a song to mass murderer and fanatic Anders Behring Breivik. It is a song Breivik has said he cannot stand, claiming its message has weakened Norwegian society (his target: immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants, and Norwegians who support immigration). “They gathered by the tens of thousands, aiming to face down terror with the power of music.” The song they sang that day was by American folk singer and songwriter Pete Seeger called, “My Rainbow Race”:
“A sky full of stars, blue sea as far as you can see.
An earth where flowers grow, can you wish for more?
Together we shall live, every sister, every brother,
Young children of the rainbow, a fertile land.”
None of us could blame those who lost children on Utoya Island or lost loved ones in the government building bombing if they had anger or hatred in their hearts. We would understand, and know that it is part of human nature, to want to respond with that same anger, hatred, and even vengeance. But this is not the path that Norwegians want to take.
Instead, they sing a different song. Standing in the rain by the thousands, they sang of a country they want to see; about a land where they and their children can live in safety and peace. Standing together, they sang so as to not let a fanatic’s hate draw them in and change them. They sang to remind themselves of who they are and who they want to be. To sing this way takes a tremendous amount of courage. It also takes a tremendous amount of faith.
“Sing! Sing a new song! Sing of that great day when all will be one! God will reign, and we’ll walk with each other as sisters and brothers united in love...” (We Are Called, ELW #720). This, too, we sing.
I know this is one story I will keep in my file folder, from now on marked: “GOD”.
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