Does what we do make a difference?
Greetings from Rock Hill, South Carolina. My wife, Lori, and I arrived here last Sunday after driving 1039 miles from our home in Dallas to our new home here just 30 minutes south of Charlotte. We are looking forward to this next season of life!
Today’s Keeping Up with Polyphony will be brief because, well, there’s a long to-do list as we settle into our new home. However, something has been nagging at the margins of my mind for a few weeks and I want to write it down (before I forget it!).
Ponder this. When you think about the Ukrainian-Russian war and the political fight over the debt ceiling and the recent shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets in Texas (where it appears most of the victims were Asian or Hispanic), do you ever stop and wonder: what difference does it make to sing hymns and create beautiful music? Wouldn’t our time be better spent in other ways? Wouldn’t we serve the Lord better by becoming active in our world?
While I will not minimize the important work of advocating for a "more perfect Union," let me venture to answer these questions by drawing from two sources,
one biblical and the other musical.
In the beginning, God created …. I’ve always been struck that the beginning of the biblical narrative opens with this line and the first verb employed is create. The Hebrew word, Qal, can mean being fashioned or shaped. And so we see a picture of the Divine Artist at work. This work we do of creating and shaping sound is a reflection, an echo of God’s original work. And it can be very good.
Following the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, Leonard Bernstein, then the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, gave a speech a few days later at Madison Square Garden. His words still ring true today.
We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.
In my final days at Wilshire, so many church members told me that music was essential to their worship experience. Their stories reminded me that music helps us soar above the weariness of life and music comforts the soul when few things do.
Your work matters. Never forget that.