by Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger
When I hear the phrase “Sing a New Song”, I immediately think about changing up the hymns I sign on Sunday. Perhaps instead of “We are Called” maybe we should sing “The Summons”. At other times I think maybe I should change the style of music, perhaps move from traditional hymns, to more contemporary praise music. Rarely if ever I have thought about switching the instruments. I find that I continue to think of this phrase in very prescribed terms;I have limited it to worship, and to a church building and to actually physically singing.
I find that so often I do not use enough imagination. The greatest danger is to begin to believe that the world is only one way. I think that when we lose imagination we begin to lose some of our hope, and optimism, since it becomes harder to see the world any other way than it is now.
In his book Ten Little Indians Sherman Alexie has a story called “Do Not Go Gently”. It is a story about when his baby son entered into a coma and almost died. While waiting in the hospital, with fear, anticipation and anxiety Sherman decided to go to the store. He was determined to buy a toy for his son, in a coma. When he arrived at the Toys in Babeland store (should have been his first hint) he was shocked to discover it was a sex shop. As the story goes on you learn that Sherman purchased a vibrator, not just any vibrator- Chocolate Thunder- the largest, most powerful vibrator. What a strange gift to buy for his son.
But Sherman takes the vibrator into the Intensive Care Unit and caused a transformation. He began singing, praying, dancing and waving that buzzing vibrator around like a magic wand. Soon everyone in the unit was laughing, and singing and full of joy. Sherman’s wife grabs it from him, and begins using it like a drum. She began to sing, and sang songs of prayer with her hand drum and Chocolate Thunder.
Sherman says of this experience that:
“ We humans are too simpleminded. We all like to think each person, place or thing is only itself. A vibrator is a vibrator is a vibrator, right? But that’s not true at all. Everything is stuffed to the brim with ideas and love and hope and magic and dreams. I brought Chocolate Thunder back to the hospital, but it was my magical and faithful wife who truly believed it was going to bring our baby back to life.”
In the church we to can be simpleminded, and see only what is in front of us. Too often we think “each person, place or thing is only itself” when in fact every one of us has endless possibilities for what we could be. We give in to the idea that whatever we see is the whole story, and we limit the story we can tell when we limit our own possibilities. The new song we need to sing is about our need to be creative, to see the world with new eyes.
As we are called to Sing A New Song, and gather in Huron Ohio this summer I hope we will be creative. I hope we will see the world through new lenses, and believe that our everyday objects, and situations can become new and transformed spaces. I hope that we might sing, and dance, and praying a way that allows creativity, love, hope and dreams to flourish.
As we begin to live viewing the world with these new eyes I know we will see our church differently, and that we will begin to help show our church a different way of living. This is away that is not held down by the limitation of boxes that tell us that a vibrator is not a musical instrument. But rather that this is our time to live into a world of new possibilities, and be revitalized. Sherman’s baby lived. Our church will live too.
Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger serves as a the Secretary for the RMN board and executive committee. She is a seminary student at Wesley Seminary in DC. Rachel was born in a reconciling congregation to a reconciling clergyperson. She brings with her years of leadership in the United Methodist Student Movement.