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My 2023 Stargift Journey with Harmony

The Stargift I received in 2023 is harmony.  Of course, the first thing I thought when I saw the word is harmony when singing.  I grew up in a musical home.  My dad played the guitar by ear and both my parents sang.  My Uncle Joe played the piano by ear.  And my maternal grandmother attended Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY, for piano (where Connie MacMillan also went to college).  A tradition for our extended family was to have sing-a-longs, with my father playing the guitar, my Uncle Joe playing the piano, my Uncle Pete playing the gut bucket, and all of us singing popular songs from the early to mid-20th century, like “By the Light of the Silvery Moon.”  My family, my mother’s siblings and their families, and my maternal grandmother would vacation together for a few weeks every summer at the house at Oak Point that has been in our family since the early 1920s.  There were a lot of people in the house at one time!  In addition to the sing-a-longs, we had a musical bedtime ritual. After all the grandchildren (of which I was the youngest at the time) were bathed and wearing our pajamas, we would line up in order form the oldest to the youngest (me). Then, my grandmother would play a


special march on the piano, we would march around the house saying goodnight to the adults (who were indulging in cocktails), and then march up the stairs to our respective bedrooms.  We would lie in bed in anticipation of a visit from the Little Man.  The Little Man was my Uncle Tom, who was 6’5”.  He would stomp up the stairs like a scary monster, then go to each bedroom to tickle us before we went to sleep.  I know, we sound a little like the Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music. 


With this musical background, it’s no wonder that the first thought that came to me regarding harmony was singing.  The ironic thing is, though, that we didn’t harmonize when singing as a family.  We just sang the melody.  So, I wasn’t exposed to harmony during our family singing sessions.  I later learned that there are “windows” in our brain’s development that close as we grow.  The earlier we are exposed to things like language, music, singing (including harmonizing), the easier it is for us to learn how to speak a language, play an instrument, carry a tune, and harmonize.  Because I wasn’t exposed to harmonizing as a young person, I wasn’t very good at it when I sang.  Luckily, I am a soprano, and sopranos usually carry the melody, so I didn’t have to confront my weakness very often.  However, I decided I needed to get better at harmonizing, so, while I was a student at Yale Divinity School, I auditioned for and was chosen to be a member of a small, a cappella singing group called the Sacramental Winers.  This forced me to learn how to harmonize better, although it continues to be a challenge for me. 


Being able to harmonize with others is not only a good skill to have when singing; it is also a good skill to have when relating to others in general.  We may not need to sing in all settings, but we will need to interact with others in settings where we are not alone, and being able to harmonize with them is beneficial.  Here’s the thing about harmonizing:  Yes, we are singing a unique part of the music (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass), so we are singing a unique tune, but we are doing so in such a way that it enhances the other parts to create a song out of all the parts.  No one part gets to sing whatever it wants to sing.  Each part must sing notes that will harmonize with the notes in the other parts.  So, each part is unique, but is working in harmony with the other unique parts.  This is the reality not only when we sing, but when we interact with others, particularly when we interact with others in intentional communities, like churches, schools, workplaces, civic organizations, etc.


The persons of the Trinity harmonize with one another.  Each is unique, yet each is in harmonious relationship with the others at all times.  Perhaps that is why we can say that God is Love.  We were made in the image of God (Gn 1:27), so perhaps love is simply being in harmonious relationship with others.  We honor our own uniqueness but are aware of the uniqueness of others and relate to them in ways that are harmonious.  The apostle Paul wrote about this way of being in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote about the church as the body of Christ.  He wrote, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body . . . and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. . . .  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (12-14, 27).  The members of the body of Christ each have their own part, but all the parts are to work together in harmony so as to form one body.


Earlier, I mentioned that I didn’t learn to harmonize as a singer when I was young, and that this made harmonizing more challenging for me.  Because I hadn’t learned this skill before that window of my brain closed, I had to work harder at it as an adult.  The same is true for us when we don’t learn how to harmonize relationally when we are young.  If we didn’t grow up in a family that harmonized well relationally, then we didn’t learn that skill while our brains were forming.  This means that we will have to be intentional about harmonizing relationally as adults and work at it.  Based on history, personal experience, and even the letters to the churches in the Bible, it seems that most people don’t learn to harmonize relationally when young.  If they did, would we have as many conflicts as we do personally, locally, nationally, and internationally?  The good news, though, is that we can learn how to harmonize relationally:  how to be uniquely ourselves, allow others to be uniquely themselves, and still be in relationship with one another in healthy, productive ways.  And the best news is that God will help us to do so.  Remember the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended as a violent wind and tongues of fire?  Remember what happened when those present received the Holy Spirit?  They were able to understand each other even though each was speaking in their native language!  The Holy Spirit enabled and inspired them to be in harmonious relationship with one another!  The Holy Spirit can do the same with us. 


There is song we used to sing as a family that came to represent my father to me.  The song is, “Tell Me Why.”  If all humanity could live what the song expresses, we just might be able to live in harmony with one another.  I’ll end my sharing by singing this song.  Please join me if you know it.


Tell me why the stars do shine.

Tell me why the ivy twine.

Tell me why the sky’s so blue.

And I will tell you, just why I love you.


Because God made the stars to shine.

Because God made the ivy twine.

Because God made the sky so blue.

Because God made you, that’s why I love you.




Sharing of 2023 Stargift Journey by the Rev. Amy Johnson, Canton Community Baptist Church, Canton, CT, Sunday, January 7, 2024, Epiphany Stargift Sunday.

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