It’s amazing how music connects us, and connects us so powerfully – for example, connecting us to a memory in the past, just like a familiar smell would. Causing us to remember good times, or hard times, or both. Surely this has also happened to you?
Immediately, I’m transported back to a memory of a very specific place and time, and I can’t help but bust out into a grin. I was on a long bicycle trip ( that’s a whole other story, for another day…), touring through the Midwest. And somewhere along the way —Illinois or Indiana maybe? — there were these crazy summertime road construction detours, taking me farther than I wanted to go that day. And I was really in no mood to put in an extra who-knows-how-many-miles to get to where I wanted to go.
But, then some stranger offered me a ride through the detour, back to where I could easily get back to the main road, to where I wanted to be. So… there I was, sitting in the back bed of some stranger’s truck, my loaded-down bicycle riding along next to me… and John Fogarty’s “Centerfield” cranked up on the radio and wafting back to me through the open windows. Soooo… years (and I do mean many, many, years) later, my connection to that song is just as strong and immediate as if the experience had happened a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I did hear the song just a couple of weeks ago. Guess what ?? It made me smile. And remember a helper who swooped in that day and rescued me from a little bit of despair.
While “Centerfield” makes me smile, this one (“The Only Name (Yours Will Be)” by Big Daddy Weave) makes me fight back the tears, because it reminds me of a time when we had just lost a good friend. He had departed from this world and passed on to be with Jesus, his Savior, in the next world.
I could feel happy for him, that he was no longer in pain, but oh my, the ache of how we would be missing him here. When this song came on the car radio that evening after he had left us, all I could do was sit in the parking lot and let the tears roll down my face as I listened to the lyrics:
“When I wake up in the Land of Glory
With the saints I will tell my story
There will be one name that I proclaim
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, just that name
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, just that name”
– and I knew that my friend was doing that very thing. That. Very. Day.
Music, just like a scent or an image or a place, connects us powerfully to our past memories.
Sometimes, I think music connects us to a broader sense of our past: as members of one corporate body of Christ, music can connect us together in ways that I think we can’t even quite understand completely. Take one of my very favoritest hymns (Favoritest… that’s a word, right?) , “A Mighty Fortress is our God” by Martin Luther. Yes, THAT Martin Luther… you know, the guy who unintentionally started the reformation and who later wrote this song (somewhere around 1529). According to Wikipedia,
“…A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (German: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott) is one of the best known hymns by the reformer Martin Luther, a prolific hymnodist. Luther wrote the words and composed the melody sometime between 1527 and 1529. It has been translated into English at least seventy times and also into many other languages. The words are a paraphrase of Psalm 46.”
Did this kinda make you stop and catch your breath, like it does to me? I mean, THIS SAME HYMN has been sung for almost 500 years now. FIVE HUNDRED YEARS. When I sing this hymn, I can’t help but reflect on the generations and generations of Christian believers that have been singing this song and declaring their faith over the last five centuries. Not only has it been sung for the last 500 years, but it’s been sung throughout a multitude of protestant churches across many different countries in many different languages. And now—referring back to Wikipedia again—it says,
“In addition to being consistently popular … in Protestant hymnbooks, it is now a suggested hymn for Catholic Masses in the U.S., and appears in the Catholic Book of Worship published by the Canadian Catholic Conference in 1972.”
So now, this hymn that was created by the Catholic Martin Luther, and then was adopted wholeheartedly by the Lutheran Church and other protestant churches that sprung up from the whole Luther stir-up, this very hymn is now back in a Catholic Book of Worship…
This just astounds me. Not only does music connect us to our own past, it also connects us to a past that we haven’t experienced directly, but yet we share: the past of a shared history in the body of Christ. Even though varied parts of the body have different practices and rituals, the Scripture about “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all” (Ephesians 4: 5, 6) holds true. And music is one way – maybe one of the best ways – for that connection to be felt.
Music connects us to our own memories and also connects us to the pasts of other people that we’re connected with in Christ.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s one reason why Scripture tells us over and over to SING.
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19,20
I encourage you to find a song today, and SING, and give thanks for the connections that we have.