The Cumberland River gave rise to music such as that; the river brought settlers to this land, and in time brought steamboats, which brought Tom Ryman, which brought the Mother Church of Country Music, which gave birth to bluegrass and all other sorts of pulsing and joyous life. And not too many weeks ago that river threatened to undo much of what it had given: destroying, muddying, and in some tragic cases, killing.
Flood and deluge as metaphor—for all the horrors against which we are powerless—become profound constructs when one has witnessed the literal referent: a rising torrent that simply cannot be stopped by any human artifice. Indeed, much of life is this way: it was faithful Job who suffered great loss and responded “the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” But he grew increasingly impatient, angry even, and wondered why he should suffer under such a flood of injustice. There are some more pious than me, who think we should never ask such questions. But it is precisely this honest anger, this honest dissent which is one of the great beauties of the scriptures. For when the deluge of life comes, we desperately need honest space to voice the questions, anger and secrets we dare not share, for fear that we shall lose even more.
Sometimes it is enough to sit with the grief and be quiet, and to listen: to a woman grieving the lover lost to war, to an orphan girl longing for a family table, to a musician from the hills sing his tale of flood. Sometimes other skills are required: like making the patient choice to do what you have to do to keep walking through the fire; like being grateful for daily bread; like being rigorously honest about the inner turmoil, too. And sometimes it requires singing new redemption songs, about what we hope might someday be.
Tokens such as these we pursue tonight, and we welcome you.