When all of the quarantines stared in March there were posts, pictures and other conversations about how the natural world around us was responding. I saw a picture of a dolphin in the Venice canals. The story went since there were no longer a sea of boats in the canals and the water was clearing because of a reduction in pollution that the dolphins had returned to a natural environment. I loved the picture and idea that something good was coming out of our current situation.
As many of you know, I grew up in Southern California. The San Diego Wild Animal Park (now Safari Park) and the Zoo were a huge part of my childhood. Not only did we have memberships where we went often but that nearly every year we had a school field trip. I loved learning at the parks because it did not feel like learning. I wasn't reading it out of a book but learning about it right in front of me. I loved reading the signs outside each exhibit. I loved watching what the animals were doing even if they were sleeping. I soaked up every trainer talk, information from the guided tours and the "performances." I knew all sorts of obscure information and loved it. The only place I did not enjoy going were the reptile houses because, I believe completely in Genesis 3:15, "I will put contempt between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers." There is definitely contempt.
Back to the dolphins, about a week after the picture I learned that it was not true. I cannot remember if it was photoshopped, a different location or what. But it did cause me to continue to look around and see how our slowing down had an impact in the world around us.
Somewhere in this time, I began pouring my morning cup of coffee and sitting out on the back patio. Originally it was because it was the only quiet place in the house. Over time others began joining me and it was not so much the quiet as it was a way to enjoy outside before it was too hot & humid to do anything but run between the car and the house. This morning as I opened my morning prayer the Psalm for the day was 95, "come let us sing to the Lord." And before I could open my lips I heard the birds singing both from my yard but in the trees beyond my yard. I heard the morning doves, the cardinals, the squirrels chattering and I knew that I had no need to open my lips but that creation was singing.
I've always had a love of music. My mother favored classical music, which I didn't mind but I couldn't sing along. My Dad played country music and I would sing along even if I didn't have the words down. When they were together they wouldn't listen to either of these genres but instead to the Kingston Trio, The Mamas & The Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, The Carpenters and so on. I remember learning to sing these songs and loving it. As I got older I found my own music which included all of the musical heritage as well as U2, Inxs, REM, The Cranberries, Dave Matthews Band and Metallica to name a few. I would always have something playing so I could sing along. As I entered seminary I loved planning worship especially so I could find music both words & melody that fit with what we were doing.
As the world around me has been singing we've learned that singing as we know it, in the church building is a great way to spread this virus. I cannot quite phathom worship without music, in part because of our Psalm for today but also Saint Augustine who said, "he who sings prays twice." And who could forget our heritage as Methodists with the countless hymns that the Wesley's left for us because we sing our faith. As we ponder and pray how to balance caring for each other and how we worship we can trust that God is with us God is good all the time and all the time God is good.
Gracious God, help us to listen to the world around us and may we sing your praise not just from our lips but in our whole life. Amen.