It happens sometimes. I take a deep breath, and my expanding diaphragm rubs up against the forgotten ball of grief buried deep inside my gut. My coward of a diaphragm recoils from the touch, shuddering all music-making air out of my lungs.
I open my mouth to sing anyway – I will not give up this hymn so easily! – but my traitorous throat holds my larynx in a vice grip.
Even my eyes betray me. I can no longer see the words on the page for the two waterfalls spilling onto my cheeks.
But, no matter. I may be mute and blind in my grief, but I am not forsaken in the pew. The Word still prevails through the mouths of my song-preaching neighbors. Freida and Margaret sit behind me, Teresa sits before, and Blake and Jenny sit at my side. Their voices sing loud and clear for my benefit:
A Mighty fortress is our God,
A trusty shield and weapon;
He helps us free from every need
That hath us now o’ertaken.
The old evil foe
Now means deadly woe;
Deep guile and great might
Are his dread arms in fight;
On earth is not his equal.
With might of ours can naught be done,
Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the valiant One,
Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is,
Of Sabaoth Lord,
And there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.
Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill;
They shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none.
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.
The Word they still shall let remain
nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain
With His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child, and wife,
Though these all be gone,
Our victory has been won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth. *
Thank you, Church, for faithfully singing the Word to me when I am struck silent by my grief. “The Word they still shall let remain,” indeed, “the Kingdom ours remaineth.” Even my double-crossing flesh cannot hold back a hearty, “Amen!”
* “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther (Lutheran Service Book 656)