This morning on the way into work, I turned on the Symphony channel of the satellite radio station. Peter and the Wolf, by Prokofiev was playing. Hearing the performance took me back to elementary school, when I first heard the composition. I believe it was every music teacher’s way of introducing the different parts of an orchestra: the woodwinds, the strings and even the percussion instruments. Of course, there was the narrative that accompanied the music, helping first time listeners interpret the melodies, harmonies and phrasing of the music. Each time I hear this piece, I imagine the actions of each character which was given life by the music.
Maybe that’s when my appreciation of music started. Like many children, I learned to play the piano, but didn’t stick with it long enough for me to play with any proficiency as an adult. My mother was a student of opera, and often played some of her favorite arias whenever she was near a piano. One of my sisters caught Beatlemania and never recovered. Then she joined the Columbia Record Club and our music library expanded immensely.
Growing up, my favorite music was church music. Sunday morning, before services began, people would gather just to sing. No books, just call and response of someone’s favorite hymn. My aunt was a minister and she and her husband led the Wednesday night prayer services. Even though my sister and I were no more than 7 or 8, we were able to lead the songs for prayer time. I can’t say we were always in tune, or we remembered the right words for each verse, but we were encouraged to make a joyful noise. It was through that Wednesday night experience that I first heard God calling me to ministry.
There are songs that bring joy to my soul or cause the tears to flow. Some of them aren’t in any Hymnal that I have. They are songs I learned from my parents, who learned them from theirs. Each one tells the story of Jesus’ love, grace and mercy. There are songs which help me find peace, courage and strength. Others heal my woundedness and let me know that I have value, not because of who I am, but because of whose I am. Music is one of the many ways we can express how we are feeling and deepen our relationship with our Lord. I close with the words of Psalm 100 (NRSV):
1. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
3. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.