A moment of joy

As a preacher, I find the prospect of ever losing my voice pretty terrifying. Maybe that’s why Zechariah’s story grabs my imagination so much. Some years ago, in a sermon entitled “the sound of silence”, I tried to capture the moment when he rediscovered his voice:

As he handed the tablet back, so it began.  At first it was like the distant rumble of an underground river, strength hidden deep below the surface.  Then it grew stronger, like molten lava pounding on the doors of the earth, waiting to be released.  Finally it was like the thunder of a hundred horses’ hooves, all churning up the dusty ground in unison.  Zechariah spoke.  Doubt was replaced with certainty.  Disbelief with faith.  Sadness with joy.  And his old cracked voice found its depths again.  Like a bird long asleep, it spread its wings, shook them and took to the skies.  Every other babbling sound in the house was hushed as his deep and beautiful voice scaled the heights of praise.  In a song that seemed as old as Moses the lawgiver and as new as tomorrow’s unformed dew, he told of the goodness of God.  “The tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven”

The rest of the sermon can be found in my book Stale Bread.

Earlier this week, news broke of Brenda  Jensen’s story.  During surgery in 1999 her larynx was irreparably damaged during surgery.  It was not until a radical new procedure involving the insertion of a voice box and trachea from a donor body that she found her voice again.  When at last they came, her words were surprisingly ordinary: ‘Good morning, I want to go home.’  Since then she has been building up her repertoire of speech, training her new muscles to work and form the necessary sounds. ‘Every day is a new beginning for me’, she says.

To those of us reluctant to open our mouths today, lest what we say is flawed or imperfect – her words come as a rebuke. The perfect sermon was never yet preached by any of us and our mistakes abound. Like Brenda, though, every opportunity to speak is a gift, and we should seize it.

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