“I thought I heard singing, sir.” (Jonesy to Captain Mancuso, Hunt for Red October, 1990)
Cyndi and I were part of a musical tour of Israel with the Global Missions Project Celebration Orchestra, and Saturday morning our group visited the Garden Tomb, also known as Gordon’s Calvary, owned and operated by a British charity since mid-19th century.
Even though we were there very early in the morning, there were dozens of other groups going through the site at the same time. But we didn’t interfere with each other since the Garden had special sitting areas for each group, providing privacy and separation so we could each hear our own guide. On and off we’d hear one of the other groups singing, and by the time the day was over I had counted at least six languages (of course I kept a tally). It was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.
“Music is love and love is music if you know what I mean. People who believe in music are the happiest people I’ve ever seen. So clap your hands and stomp your feet and shake those tambourines. Lift your voices to the sky, tell me what you see. I believe in music; I believe in love.” (Mac Davis, 1971)
I knew in my mind the church is worldwide, and it didn’t surprise me that people worship differently. But it was amazing to actually hear so many worshiping in their own heart languages, one after another, each different in tone and melody and meter and accent, all clearly praising God.
Later, one of my orchestra friends said, “Imagine when we get to heaven we will all speak the same language.” I agreed with him, at first, but then I didn’t. I hope we continue to sing and praise in our earthly heart languages. It would be a shame to lose those voices. I’m not sure I want a future where we all sound alike.
“What the people need is a way to make them smile. It ain’t so hard to do if you know how. Gotta get a message; get it on through. Oh, listen to the music.” (Tom Johnston, 1972)
We all interpret God’s grace through the narrow view of our own experience; that view only gets broader when we listen to each other’s stories. For me, it got larger again hearing all those voices and languages. It was a deep, solid, hit to my soul, and I haven’t yet stopped thinking about it.
We went to Israel intending to share God and share our hearts through music. Nothing spans culture and language gaps like music, and by playing with the Celebration Orchestra we hoped to share the gospel of grace with anyone who’d listen. I never expected God to speak to me in the same way. I thought I’d hear more from God through geography and archeology. We came to Israel to give; we ended up receiving.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, in Life Together, “Love for the brethren begins with listening to them. It is God’s love for us that he not only gives us his word, but also lends us his ear.”
Thank you, God, that we can hear people sing about you, even when we can’t understand their words. Thanks for your gift of music.
Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, “How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.” (Mishkan Tefilah, The Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book)
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32