Singing, Trembling, & Preaching



We seem to have nothing, yet we possess everything! It would be a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—if you’d open your hearts as widely to us as we do to you.~ 2 Corinthians 6:11, 13

In the week between finals and commencement from seminary, I did the most natural of things, I competed in the World Series of Birding! It was during that time that the commencement preacher called my house with a question. Dr. Kirk Jones wanted to know if sparrows actually tremble when they sing. I don’t recall now how I got the information back to him that indeed they do, but his question seemed as odd to me as my adventure, no doubt, did to him.

Mary Oliver was the cause of his query. In her book-length poem, The Leaf and the Cloud, she described sparrows bending the grass they perch on and singing while their whole bodies tremble. Given the effort that birds put into singing, that is an apt description. Those tiny creatures, light enough to land on grass, sometimes emit a sweet buzzing and sometimes belt out a full-throated melody belying their undersized, and yes, trembling bodies. It is hard to view a bird throw back its head and break into singing and not appreciate the reckless abandon involved. Dr. Jones wanted to encourage the graduating preachers to likewise tremble every time they mounted a pulpit.

Living out loud, singing out your song for everyone to hear, is certainly a desired side effect of following the Wild Goose Spirit. At least, I’d like to think that the Creator had this in mind, even if we fear that our singing will be off-key or annoying. That never stopped a Black Vulture (look it up, I’ll wait). A timid muttering about the divine is actually an indication that you just might not have encountered divinity. If you have been in the holy presence then you will radiate wonder and awe. You will not be able to contain that in your spirit or your body. You just might tremble when you sing.

Prayer: Source of awe, may we live our one wild and precious life in ways that tremble when we preach, even when we don’t use words. Amen

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