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Reflections by the Pond – February 20, 2012
After this manner therefore pray ye...
At a funeral for an old friend, some time ago, the pastor leading the simple memorial service had everyone in attendance sing the hymn How Great Thou Art, verses one and four.
The singing of the hymn was a sad, anemic chorus, muttered more than sung, a distracted, otherwise-engaged rendition that barely reached the low, tiled ceiling of the funeral home—let alone the throne of heaven. The gathering of homemakers, business people, retired folks, and the farmers seated behind us sang with the conviction of damp moss growing on the bark of a dead oak tree.
Later, near the end of the service, the pastor led us all in reciting a familiar passage of Scripture. This chorus was only slightly more robust; perhaps it is easier to speak, than to carry a tune. Most knew the words, and they were delivered with typical I-can-do-this force. Yet here again there was a sad poverty of conviction, the syllables spilling from the lips by rote: unfeeling, uninspired, insipid.
Both the hymn and the Scripture consisted of words directed upward to God, yet the words spoken were mumbled into the chest, as if the people uttering them were embarrassed by their sound...