Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Next To Theology, Music

"The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God....Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity, and other devices." - Martin Luther

"Next to theology, I give music the highest place of honor." - Martin Luther

I named my third child – my second son, Dylan. Dylan is not a family name. It is the name of my favorite singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan. I own a few dozen albums of Dylan’s music and have listened to them again and again over the years. I know, I know, I am not special in this affection. I personally know many who would say the same and see nothing strange about naming a son after him. No, I tell you this because even though he is the musical artist I prefer above all else, I have not listened to him for almost 2 months. And this is by choice.

The last few months have been hard. Black and blue. Never had I known the “blues” or become acquainted with anyone who is a member of the family of depression before. But now I have met them. It was more like a phone call. We did not shake hands or embrace but we are aware of one another. I do not suppose this makes me special in any degree. But it was new.

I doubted my calling to the ministry. I doubted every vocational decision previous. Doubts were my close companions and they were joined by fears from every quarter. My “secret sins and misdeeds dark” mocked me as from beyond the grave. Failure showed up to make himself known. He is a loud talker and very convincing in his evaluations. Dark were colors of this scene. So dark all the present characters longed for the curtain to come down and an intermission to take place so a breath could be taken.

There is no need for pity. I am in good company. Many men and women have been dealt the same hand and must play. But I tell you this because I found such help in a form I should have expected but did not. Music.

And not just any music, but the gospel sung. Sung with the beauty of the great painters and the raw, intense power of punk rock. Sweetly sung as if from angels who have known nothing but glory and in gravely, worn-out tones knowing the warp and whoop of the present sufferings. I clung to melodies that were echoes of the victory we have already begun to enjoy and long to see completed. But sweet were the songs sung from “the depths of woe” – their cathartic power worked on me peace in the midst of storms.

I marinated in new songs. And I swam in the depths of old hymns reborn for a new generation that knows nothing but the shallow end. Every now and again I would veer off into some other branch of music where the gospel was only veiled by other cares and concerns. It never took long for me to jerk back onto this road.

Words such as this have been the very “balm of Gilead”:

His promised mercy is my fort My comfort and my sweet support


No bleeding bird, no bleeding beast
 No hyssop branch no priest
 No running brook no flood no sea
 Can wash away this stain from me.

For only your blood is enough to cover my sin For only your blood is enough to cover me.

And even simple lines like this one…

There is no one like our God

This is no legalistic binge. I need this music. If you were to ask me about my favorite music, I would probably still tell you “Dylan.” But if you asked me what I was listening to, I would tell you a different story.


Six AM Comics said...
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Daniel Griswold said...
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McKay Caston said...

hey bro.
reading this post and the next, it looks like you really are ready for the radical world of church planting... gospel planting... i don't claim to be an officer in the "black and blue" society, but i am a member... so welcome to the club.

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