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Devotion: Telling the Story

Katherine Castille, a member of our soprano section and Choir Representative to the Board, shared this devotion with the choir prior to the final concert of our 2014-15 season. The choir gloriously sang Alexander Gretchaninoff's "Passion Week" at Zumbro Lutheran Church in Rochester, MN, as part of their 150th anniversary celebration.

The theme for our gala this year was “Telling the Story.” The invitation read, “Join us as we tell the story of the National Lutheran Choir -- and celebrate the story that the NLC tells.” So I’ve been thinking about stories lately, why they’re important, why we should tell them. Like songs, they’ve been used in pretty much every culture to entertain, teach and recount histories.   

There are all kinds of stories ...

Fables teach us simple life lessons ... like The Tortoise and the Hare - hard work wins the race.                  

  • Countless mythology stories
  • Prometheus bringing fire to humans.
  • Or Thor, with his hammer, Mjolnir, protecting his people in battle after battle.
  • Limericks - There once was a man from ... well, we’ll skip limericks
  • Ballads on the topic of Robin Hood or King Arthur
  • Parables from the bible
  • The Prodigal Son — forgiveness renews and bitterness withers
  • Or The Mustard seed — from the smallest of all seeds, the largest and strongest plant can grow

There’s something about a good story that can cut to the core or make you laugh till your sides ache. Studies have shown, that people are more likely to share personal stories after someone has made them laugh. How many times has that happened in this group? 

Stories connect us to each other and to the collective consciousness. So what’s the story the NLC tells?

We make music. We share devotions. And both remind us of the blessings we receive from God. Since today is last concert day, please allow me to recap a few examples from the year:

  • Tim Sheie’s devotion where he told the story of a Zion Quartet listener who was so hurt and so alone, yet after hearing a song, she could begin to heal
  • Our concert series, “Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was themed around the historical trauma of people who were cruelly oppressed, and yet were able to hold on to hope strong enough to sustain them through every trial                
  • The sermon the reverend delivered after President Lincoln’s assassination — the fear and uncertainty of our nation then, being echoed in the headlines today — and 5 months after that terrible assassination, the same reverend, seeking peace and healing, penned “O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie” which we sang at our Christmas concerts last year          
  • Feeling the heartbeat at a drum circle, symbolizing the connection to the earth and to all people               
  • At the Tune Up, Dr. Armstrong’s touching story of his mother coming back from the edge of dementia with a song as her guide
  • And in Hope and Quietly Wait, singing words that remind us that even when struggling with loss, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God

And that’s THE Story.

God the creator

God who saved us and gave us eternal life

God the spirit, who fills us with peace, strength, hope and love that no one and nothing can take away. 

Today, we’ll sing Gretchaninoff’s Passion Week one more time. At the concert on Thursday, I felt something shift in the room during movements 8 and 9. The words we were singing were: “The wise thief, in a single moment, thou didst make worthy of praise, o Lord; illumine me as well by the wood of the cross, and save me.” And  “How shall I bury Thee, O my God? What songs shall I sing?”

God wants us to sing, to share our stories — in times of mourning and in times of joy. It brings us closer to each other, reminds us of the gifts we’ve been given, and reminds us how to show love to one another ... And that brings us closer to God.  

It’s last concert day — we’ll sing the final concert of our 14-15 season. We’ve sung so many songs together, and now this group, as it exists today, will sing it’s last song together. Soli Deo Gloria.