Words are beautiful and powerful. Those same words, set to a musical line, can have a compelling impact upon the listener. When those words become alive in the heart of the singer, the song becomes not just beautiful melodies, lines and words, but an exquisite message from the heart. A glimpse into the life of the singer. A brief moment where you see the heart of the musician connected to their Savior and God.
I had the rare privilege of experiencing this three times in the past several weeks. It has renewed my thought of why we sing; why the text of a song is so important, and why we need to sing with conviction the message we are delivering.
My first experience was personal. I had the opportunity to sing Dan Forrest’s beautiful new arrangement of the 18th century Charles Wesley text, “And Can It Be?”. As I was preparing to sing, the message of the song came alive and fresh for me. I began to meditate on the great love of a Savior who not only died for me, but pursued death for me. How can that kind of love exist? What compels someone to sacrifice their life for the very one who caused their death to begin with? Amazing love, indeed. Uncomprehensible love. Love unbounding. Mystifying grace. The thought was overwhelming to me. And as I sit here on Easter morning, about to celebrate the same Love, risen from the dead, I am still completely overwhelmed that He died for me.
The second experience was a lesson in simplicity. I have been assisting a friend lately who wanted to improve his singing. Starting out, I thought this would be a short-term thing, just a few lessons in the basics of good singing. Turns out, he is pretty serious about becoming a better singer and I have enjoyed helping him on this journey. He, too, sang in church recently. A more contemporary text than I sang, but a very strong message. We had a short period of time to put this song together, and in true fashion, I took on a greater task than I really had time to accomplish. Also true to form, I couldn’t rest or stop until it was “perfect”. I will confess, my friends, I can quickly put undue expectations and pressure on myself in the name of ministry. God showed me how completely unnecessary that all is on my part as my friend/student sang last Sunday morning. The message of the song was at the forefront of the presentation and was all that was needed. This happened not because of ANYTHING I had done, but because of the beautiful heart of the one doing the singing. He was in-tune (pun intended) with his Savior. The message of the cross being a place of redemptive mercy for all was heard throughout the sanctuary.
Our final Lenten worship was on Good Friday. An introspective day all on its own, other events of the week brought me to this service feeling quiet and thoughtful. There was a beautiful reading of the seven last words of Jesus from the cross, but it was the solo singing of a simple hymn that stirred my heart. It is a hymn I am somewhat unfamiliar with, “The Purple Robe”. The text is a beautiful poem of Jesus’ journey to the cross, the scorn of the guards, the sin of man that put him there and the redeeming love that kept him there. I watched the face of our soloist as he sang the words, “I see my Savior die.” I saw the pain and sorrow in his face as those words pierced his heart. I felt the tear that ran down my cheek as I felt the pain alongside him. I heard his strong voice struggle for composure to continue to sing the text of love and mercy. What a beautiful lesson in vulnerability he taught all of us on Good Friday.
Yes, words are beautiful and powerful. Words set to musical line are spellbinding and captivating.
How fortunate are we to have such a gift to convey the message of God’s love, sacrifice and grace. I pray I always remember the reason I sing……….