The title of this morning’s sermon was ‘What He did for love”, a message inspired by maybe the most well known scripture there is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

It was a fantastic message, one that made clear the reckless love of Jesus and filled the empty room with warmth and light.

But music theater nerd that I am, that sermon title took me into the musical A Chorus Line, where we find the song “What I did for love”.

A Chorus Line ran for more than 6,000 performances and held the title of the longest running show in Broadway history for a long time. Its one of my favorites, even though the amount of dancing required prevents me from ever being in it and the…”maturity” of the script precludes me from being able to produce it with youth actors.

The show is about dancers auditioning to be a part of a chorus line. All of the characters are desperate for the job, and all of them are shocked when the director asks them to talk about themselves – a stark conceptual contrast to the uniformity and anonymity of the ensemble they are auditioning to be a part of. The rest of the show follows the characters reluctantly telling their stories of growing up, of learning their craft, and of the various traumas and heartbreaks they have overcome and, in some cases, repressed just enough to get by.

Its a show about dancing, but it is relatable to any performer. You spend your life chasing a moving target – working towards being the perfect talent for a role that hasn’t been written, an art that hasn’t been crafted.

Near the end of the show a character that has become special to the audience falls and reinjures his knee, removing him from casting consideration and leaving open the possibility that he won’t be able to perform again. This prompts the director to ask his now sullen stage of hopefuls “What will you do when you can no longer dance?”

This is the answer:

Kiss today goodbye
The sweetness and the sorrow
Wish me luck, the same to you
But I can’t regret
What I did for love, what I did for love

Look, my eyes are dry
The gift was ours to borrow
It’s as if we always knew
And I won’t forget what I did for love
What I did for love

Love is never gone
As we travel on
Love’s what we’ll remember

Kiss today goodbye
And point me toward tomorrow
We did what we had to do
Won’t forget, can’t regret
What I did for love

Songwriters: Marvin Hamlisch / Edward Kleban

A year ago, an unforgiving virus entered our world and knocked the performing arts community to its knees. Sanctuaries, concert venues and theaters were ordered empty, but finding an audience was only one problem.

From this singer’s perspective – having spent years learning how to project my voice and use my lungs to power my music – I knew exactly why it was dangerous. We all knew, that’s why it hurt so badly. We knew exactly what was at stake for ourselves and for the people that we sang with. We’d all read the stories that spread like wildfire in the beginning; choirs that did everything right and still became the unlucky example to us all. Every choir director had inboxes full of cautionary tales and encyclopedias of regulations to follow before even a single note could be considered.

What will you do when you can no longer sing?

First, you completely lose your mind. You grieve and ache. You look at stacks of music and unrealized plans and remember lovingly choosing those scores to the specific personalities and talents around you. You realize you can’t just hit pause and resume when things go back to “normal”. You accept that your “normal” will be one of the last ones to return.

So you open the encyclopedia of rules and find out what you can do: You can record. A lot. But you will need to convince a lot of other people to do it too. If you can’t, you will ask again. And again and again. You will try to rehearse online. Some people who miss singing as much as you do will start to sing with you, and your heart will break because you know how hard and different it is for them. Some people who miss singing as much as you do just won’t be able to do this, and your heart will break wondering if there was something you could have done to make it possible.

You will get recordings but need to figure out what to do with them. You will learn skills you never thought of and fill your home with technology you never imagined needing. You will pray that God opens your mind to see beyond the pixels so that you will be a good steward of the efforts entrusted to you. You will never lose sight that these offerings of uploads were created in fear and love to glorify our great God.

You will hold vigil in this “normal”, as life crawls back to a steady pace around you. You will continue to look for the beauty, seek what is unique and valuable, and honor the craft that is before you.

That is where my answer ends, because that is as far as we have come. But I have to believe that when it is all over – when the masks are gone and we lift our voices together again, when we spend our time rehearsing and laughing and performing instead of producing – we will look back and know that, for this season, we did what we had to do.

Won’t forget, can’t regret
What I did for love

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