On a rather dreary and damp Sunday morning, I walked alone through the streets of Durham, England making my way to St. Nicholas’ Anglican Church right on the old town square.
I was just beginning my graduate studies, unsure of what the next few years would bring.
Truthfully,I was unsure of myself and my abilities. I was anxious. Worship seemed an appropriate way to begin this journey. Walking in the doors, the coolness and dampness of the outside melted away with the warmth of the sanctuary, the kindness of the people, and the sheer comfort of sitting with the people of God. In that moment, and with those emotions, the organ thundered in a way that only an organ really can. As a congregation we sang:
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
Tender to me the promise of His Word;
In God my Savior shall my heart rejoice.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His name!
Make known His might, the deeds His arm has done;
His mercy sure, from age to age the same;
His holy Name, the Lord, the mighty One.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by;
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight;
The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.
Tell out, my soul, the glories of His Word!
Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure.
Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord
To children’s children and forevermore!
I had never sung this hymn before. It has become one of my favorites. The words are sure, the tune is powerful, and it brings back in my mind the security I felt on that dreary day.
Meanwhile Back in Michigan…
Once a year or so our worship director includes this hymn in our worship service. A few weeks ago I noticed that it was in our liturgy for the following Sunday. I was excited. I began to sing this song to myself all week just in case our worship leader needed me to come out of the bullpen. It’s a call that never comes.
That Wednesday evening about 50 of us were sitting in the foyer just outside of our sanctuary. We had gathered to listen to the stories of two of our congregants who fled from Cuba to the United States after the revolution. They told us what their lives were like before Castro. Family, school, and overall good times, even though they did not have much.
As they shared these stories, I heard the organ from the sanctuary. Our worship team practices on Wednesday nights and as the group began to sing my favorite hymn, my mind wandered to the song and the memories that come with it.
I was brought back by the sound of tears. While both of these women were now telling the stories of life under Castro that caused them to flee, one was especially moved and wept. She told of the harassment that her husband experienced at the hands of their oppressors since he would not support the Communist Party. She told of how he was arrested for a political crime and thrown into prison without any real trial. Finally, through tears, she spoke of the day she received word that her husband had “died” in prison. No official reason was ever given nor was his body ever released. Alone, she boarded a ship to a new life. The room was dead silent…except for the faint sound of the organ.
I again found myself caught between two worlds. To hear the stories of these women and countless others makes me question God and God’s goodness at times. And in the background is the profession of faith through song that God is sovereign. God is merciful.God will bring justice. God is in control.
Powers and dominions lay their glory by. Do they? Why does evil seem so strong? His mercy sure? Where was God’s mercy in that Cuban prison? Where is God’s mercy to those who still suffer injustice and hostility? Where is God’s mercy when…? Tell out, my soul? Sometimes I’m not sure that people really want to hear the story that my soul would tell.
Between Two Worlds in Lent
Lent is a time when we live in these two worlds. The journey to the cross, the way of suffering, and the call to follow Jesus are juxtaposed with the reality that we live in a post-resurrection world. Christ has already defeated evil in all of its forms, but not yet. God is good, God is powerful, God is merciful and yet evil and its effects continue to fill our lives and world.
In Lent, we remember that we do not dart back and forth between the profession of God’s sovereignty and the painful realities of our world. Rather it is in the midst of our deepest pain that we are able to fully meet God even though we don’t have all the answers.
I was reminded of this by my dear friend who spoke of God’s goodness and provision in her life through pain and loss, relocation, and restoration. Her soul was telling out not in spite of her suffering but through it. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. If God’s victory came through suffering, we shouldn’t expect anything different today.
From Durham to Cuba, from pastors to prisoners, from the wealthy to the widow, may our souls continue recount what God has done. Sometimes through thundering organ and others through quiet tears, Tell Out, My Soul, Tell Out.