I have just returned from three weeks in Latvia. This tiny Baltic country is an “island” largely free of the Covid-19 virus, and therefore once in the country, and through quarantine, the restrictions are lighter than in most other places.
It was great to be able to meet with a large group of other Christians on a Sunday morning.
It was brilliant to be able to preach live and face to face. The sermon was based on Revelation Chapters 4–5, where the curtain of heaven is swept away to reveal the centre of everything.
Yet the highlight of the trip was being able to sing and gather with God’s people to worship the Lamb. There is something about the combination of significant words and well-crafted music that touch the soul in a way that nothing else can.
‘They sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth”’ (Revelation 5:9–10).
This is a song that pulsates with sheer energy and enthusiasm in celebration of the Lamb who has through his death achieved an astonishing international rescue.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has said, “We may be used to singing about the triumphs of the slaughtered Lamb, but there is something almost comic about a Lamb as superhero, and I suspect the writer of Revelation must have known that”.
Yes, here is a song, with an image that is truly audacious. You will not find a lamb cast as a superhero in a Marvel comic, but here it is. I love the images of Revelation which so wonderfully assault all five senses. I find it very compelling that at the centre of the universe there is music that engages us totally: heart, soul, mind and strength.
On Desert Island Discs this week the castaway was the iconic musician Yusuf Cat Stevens, a complex individual with a Greek Cypriot father and a Swedish Baptist mother. Stevens attended a Roman Catholic School, but at the hight of his musical career he converted to Islam. I was interested to see what he said about the role of music in his life.
“I see music as a gift, and all I am doing is enjoying that gift. With certain presents you unwrap the gift and that is it. The thrill is gone when you have ripped off the wrapping paper but not with music. Music continues to vibrate and mean something.”
You know what it’s like when a tune gets into your head and becomes a soundtrack for life.
King David has helped me to see the value of songs in the development of my faith and the deepening of my spiritual experience. I find it helpful to see how David is able to pour the last drop of his topsy-turvy experiences into a song:
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” (Psalm 28:7).
Words like this will continue to vibrate and mean something for eternity.
It made me think about my preaching: does it vibrate with an authenticity and beauty that compels a response?
It might have vibrated for a few minutes on Sunday, but does it still mean something on Monday morning?