From Ruth Heilman, Minister of Music …
Whenever I hear Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” I’m transported to the day when Jon proposed to me, as the song played on the radio, and then to our first dance as husband and wife, surrounded by family and friends, as the same song played on a hot August day. When I sing “In Christ Alone,” my mind is back conducting the high school choir during the funeral for one of their fellow students. I can clearly picture one student with tears streaming down her face as she sang. Music is powerful and gentle, mustering memories and emotions, and touching our souls. It prays, cries, and rejoices, often at the same time.
Hans Christian Andersen said, “Where words fail, music speaks,” and Sidney Lanier wrote, “Music is love in search of a word.” One of my favorite sayings about music, however, comes from a wall at a German opera house. It reads, “Bach gave us God’s Word, Mozart gave us God’s laughter, Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words.”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV), we read, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It’s always time to pray, especially now. And it’s always time to rejoice, even now. Paul doesn’t ask us to rejoice FOR all circumstances, like COVID-19, but rather to rejoice IN all circumstances. We rejoice that God is in control. We rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus died for us, and that no matter what happens in this world, we are saved through His death and resurrection. We pray for deliverance from the virus that threatens us. We pray for strength for those who work in government, health care, transportation, building safety, grocery stores, and so many others. We pray for those who are vulnerable, for clergy, teachers, and students who are doing their best to continue worship and education. We pray for scientists who are working non-stop to find a vaccine. And we pray for peace in the hearts of all who are anxious about anything.
In these uncertain days of our “new (anything but!) normal,” know that God loves you, and He is in control. Look to “God’s music” for strength. Read two or three Psalms a day – there are 150 to keep you occupied. Listen to, sing, or play songs of comfort. The internet puts all of this at our fingertips. And pray without ceasing. Psalm 40: 2-3 reads, “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and hear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
You are in my prayers. Let’s sing on!