Your Soul’s Song

  • “People get ready, there’s a train a-coming. Don’t need no ticket, you just get on board.”
  • “People all over the world, join hands, start a love train, love train”
  • “Put a little love in your heart.”
  • “Try a little tenderness”
  • “Stand by me”
  • “I’ll be there”
  • “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me…”

What do these songs have in common? They’ve all got soul. This is soul music. Technically, Soul is defined as a specific musical genre from the 1950’s and ‘60’s that grew out of both the Gospel and R&B traditions. We know that a lot of these songs became staples of the pop music scene in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. We also know that many of these songs have stood the test of time and become iconic soundtracks to our lives. One even made it into our UU hymnal!

Soul music came out of the African American experience at a time when that experience was pretty bleak. It spoke to the indomitable spirit of a people, their relentless faith that someday, somehow, things were going to get better. That was the gospel roots talking. But Soul added another dimension, and that was about how we are with each other until things got better.  Soul music tells us that, in the meantime, and in mean times, people can count on each other to get them through. While a lot of Soul lyrics sound like romantic love songs, Soul actually calls us back to the sustaining values that mean the most. Friendship. Love. Faith. Hope. “Your love keeps lifting me higher.” And, of course, it’s all done to a beat that you just have to get up and dance to.

There’s no doubt that we’re in the midst of another “mean time” these days. I don’t even need to say more than that, and you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s another time when we need some Soul. Music that reminds us that “hard times gonna come” but that there will be a “bright, sunshiny day” somewhere ahead. But the Soul I’m talking about that we need today isn’t gonna come from Motown. It’s not going to come from Memphis or Nawlin’s or Chicago. It’s not even gonna be a Philadelphia sound – TSOP. The Soul music we need today is gonna come from here. From inside of us. From our hearts. From our own souls.

So, this is the question I want us to be asking ourselves as we kick off a new church year, and it’s a question that maybe we can ask ourselves all year long: “What’s the song that your soul longs to sing?” Or to put it more simply, “What’s your soul’s song?” Now, if all this talk about “souls” makes you uncomfortable, I can put it another way: What is the deep hunger, the deep passion, the deep longing your heart is yearning for? What part of yourself is longing to be let loose and set free? Rev. Howard Thurman famously said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people to come alive.”

I want this church to be a place where everyone’s soul sings. Where we all come alive. Where it’s safe and acceptable and we’re encouraged and emboldened to reveal our heart’s deepest longings. Where we take risks with each other. Where we dare to dream greatly together, to borrow Brene Brown’s words.

I want us to remember that whale that Chrissy was talking about earlier.[1] The one who is out there in the vast Pacific Ocean, singing its own song. You know, they call it “The Loneliest Whale in the World,” but I think of it as “The Happiest Whale in the World.” Because it’s free. It’s singing its own song. It’s not worried about how it sounds to the other whales, or whether other whales can even hear it. And maybe they can’t. But think about this: this whale is singing a song that’s been heard by a completely different species. This whale is singing a song that has moved the hearts of a million people. Imagine that. Imagine that your soul’s song is the one song that someone, somewhere, needs to hear. You need to sing your soul’s song for yourself. And you need to sing it because it just might be the song that touches, or moves, or inspires someone else.

The year ahead will, in many ways, be pivotal for this church. We’re going to be looking at how we can expand and improve our building to better accommodate our growth and to better serve our mission. We’ll be asking each other to support that expansion with our time and our money. And we’ll be doing that work inside the church at the same time we are working for justice outside the church. We’ll be getting out the vote for midterm elections, and building partnerships with community groups like FUSE, and, no doubt marching for sensible gun control and women’s rights and the dismantling of systems of white supremacy and other oppression. We’ve got a lot going on this year!

What will sustain us, and what will reward us in the year to come, and hopefully for years to come, will be our soul songs. We can come back to them, time and again, to ground us. To remind us of who we are and who we hope to be. And maybe more importantly, we can sing our songs to each other, so that when our own heart doesn’t feel like singing, others can lift us up with songs of their own.

May it be so. Blessed be. Ashay. Amen.


[1] "The Loneliest Whale in the World"