I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of music lately and about the awesomeness of God.
A couple of weeks ago our accompanist and choir director, Zhanna, and I were meeting to work on hymn selections, but also on plans for special music, such as (hopefully) a trombone added to the Gathering Hymn on Palm/Passion Sunday, and the trumpet player who will (hopefully) be playing with us on Easter Sunday, and the choir anthem that will be sung on that first glorious Sunday of Easter when we are drawn forth with organ and trumpet from our Lenten time of fasting and preparation and into the glorious Easter season, a time for praising and glorifying the risen Christ who draws us into new and risen life.
Then last week I was practicing and preparing for our latest worship service with Gospel-style music, and working on a new song I have been composing. And as I was singing lines of the African American spiritual “Give Me Jesus” over and over, listening for where to add coloration and embellishments to the notes, I suddenly found myself stopped short, once again in awe at this gift of music that God gives to the world. Have you ever been in a cathedral, or even entered the humble, yet elegant and beautiful sanctuary of Redeemer, New Paltz and found yourself thinking about God, drawn into the wonder and majesty and wonder of God that is so very vast and beyond our comprehending, yet which God in God’s goodness seeks to reveal in some part to us, God’s beloved incarnate children?
Like the rays of light that shine down upon the altar through the skylights at Redeemer, New Paltz and land on the altar at certain times of the year, the notes and message coming through the words of “Give Me Jesus” stopped me short, making me aware again of the wonder and majesty of God. They drew me again into awe and wonder of our almighty and all-amazing Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is the power of music. To draw us back to the resurrected present made possible, as Christians understand it, by Jesus.
We’re roughly halfway through Lent if you’re reading this when it is first published, but no matter when you might be seeing this, I invite you to pause and try to remember again a time or two when you have been brought into wonder and awe at the majesty and mystery and amazing-ness of God. Maybe it was out in the forest or a garden, or listening to some type of music that feels divine to you. Maybe it was at the birth of a child or grandchild or grandnephew or niece. I invite you to try and remember this feeling, maybe ask God’s help to remember this feeling, the next time that you gather with your faith community in worship online or in person.
You see, the good news is that no matter what is happening with music in worship, whether it is a Sunday when all of our favorites are being sung, or extra instruments provide a “lift,” or new songs are being introduced that take some getting used to, or maybe a Sunday that feels sort of regular; the good news is that no matter what is happening with the music, God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit is drawing us together for an opportunity to experience wonder and awe. And sometimes that’s easy and happens as natural as, well, breathing. And sometimes we need to work at it a little bit, and draw up other memories of times when we felt awe and wonder and bring those memories with us as we are gathered together in worship. There’s no doubt that our God is an awesome and awe-inspiring God, and thankfully, God gives us many ways, including music, to be drawn into awe and wonder and thanksgiving and praise for God, the Three-In-One.