I was driving home from church today, Sunday November 4, when I heard an interview on NPR that struck me. It was one of those “in the moment” experiences, or as I said in my sermon earlier today, a moment when several thoughts and experiences came together and brought forth something new. In the stock trading vernacular, this day would be labled as a triple witching day. In the language of the Church it would be described in more Trinitarian terms. The worship today was one river that was made from three tributaries. It was All Saints Sunday, the day when we remembered and honored those persons in our lives that had contributed to our establishing or growing in our faith individually and those who had been a part of the founding and growing of the congregation. It was also the first Sunday of the month when the congregation traditionally celebrates the sacrament of Communion, the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper. Lastly it was commitment Sunday, the day when members made their financial commitments to God through the church for 2013. It was, as I mentioned in the sermon, a busy day.
The stewardship committee, and I, were initially hesitant to set commitment Sunday on All-Saints Sunday and a Communion Sunday as a third emphasis might take away from the meaning of all three. But, again, as I mentioned in the sermon, it was the perfect day to touch upon all three themes because they came together as a tapestry of meaning and experience of the Kingdom of God and the Communion of the Saints. The combination of the three enabled and enhanced understanding of each. As we remembered the Saints in our lives and church, we were encouraged to continue the support of the congregation many of them had worked together, with God, in growing. As we considered our commitment to God we were reminded of God’s total and ultimate commitment offered for us through Christ as was recalled in the Sacrament of Communion. We were also reminded of the Communion of the Saints through All Saints day and by the sacrament of Communion, where we believe that we are joined in the celebration of the sacrament by the great cloud of witnesses that is the Communion of God’s Saints.
I continued to contemplate the reality and meaning of these foci for the day, individually and intertwined, as I drove home. I was listening to NPR when I heard a story about an American composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre and his “Virtual Choir” projects. I had heard the interview before, and while very impressed it did not hit me then with the meaning and connection it did as I drove home following this meaning-filled day. The Virtual Choir is a project that came to Mr. Whitacre through the internet when he received a video from a young girl singing one of his compositions. It occurred to Eric that the internet could be a tool to bring voices from all over the world together into one choir. Short story, Eric composed a piece intended to be sung by individuals at home, recorded by webcams, and uploaded to him. The choir members would watch a video of Eric conducting the piece as they sung and recorded their part. These uploads would then be scrubbed to improve the quality as much as possible, synced up, and a choir would be born.
The result is, I believe astounding. The first Choir had 185 singers from 12 countries. The second, over 2000 from 58 countries, and the third consisted of 2945 members from 73 nations. As I listened to this beautiful music while driving home, I was struck how this, in my mind, is how I picture the Communion of the Saints; individuals from all over, joining voices in one song. In contrast to virual reality, this was a virtual, yet real, choir. I think it was this virtual yet real aspect where I connected on a deeper level. I had discussed that day in the course of the sermon and celebration of Communion the theological understanding that as we were partaking of the Eucharist we were joined in the meal by the Great Communion of the Saints. While I would not describe the Communion of the Saints as virtual, they were, and are, present during the sacrament in a real, though mysterious way. As Christians we are called to develop our theological understanding as much as we can yet be comfortable with living with and within the mysterious realities of God. The Sacrament of Communion, and contemplation of the Communion of the Saints allow us to practice this development of our faith.
If you haven’t heard the Virtual Choir, I invite you to listen through the link below.