From Bishop Larry Kochendorfer
Dear Beloved of God –
As a child I delighted in viewing CBC Hymn Sing on my grandparents black and white television screen with my identical twin and three younger siblings. I loved the arrangements of the familiar hymns, as well as the physical arrangement of the choir. Often at night for many years my brother and I would sing the concluding Hymn Sing benediction before we closed our eyes.
I was enthralled as the Von Trapp family sang during the movie, The Sound of Music. My siblings and I would break out into our own musical renditions often performing for family and friends.
Together we sang for weddings and celebrations, with our mother at the piano. As children our song favorite was a version of a hymn sung now at all family funerals, “Children of the Heavenly Father,” with a simple descant line that soared into the heavens.
And then I began to play for worship. My piano playing often in duet fashion with the organ. Soon my cousin and I were leading the singing during Sunday School openings.
My love for music continued post-High School with piano performance serving as my second major. Accompanying college musicals and voice and instrumental majors, leading congregational song from the piano during chapel services, playing for convocations and graduations.
And, playing for my own personal need. When I needed to step away, or forget, or rest, or vent, or weep.
These past months I have returned again and again to music as a spiritual practice.
Music has again become my prayer, for music is life-giving for me – body, mind, and spirit – a spiritual practice that grounds me, refreshes me, and quietens me when I am inclined to go madly off in all directions. I am reminded of Luther’s words that, “next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”
Music, in these past months, has served as a reminder to me of what it is that I believe. Music and text seep into my bones in ways that didactic information never will. Music sinks under my skin shaping the very way I perceive this world – this uncertain time.
Music, in these past months, has been born anew in me for music, profound music, is born at times when there is no other possible way for something to be expressed. Here I am mindful of
the words of Aldous Huxley, who in his magnificent essay titled, “The Rest is Silence,” said: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
Music, in these past months, has connected my experience with that of the people of God of all times and places. The incredible and moving performances of individuals gathered around the world via technology to sing, to dance, to make music together. The grandmother cradling and humming gently to the child who is afraid. Those gathered to grieve and mourn the death of a church leader from this vicious virus and hearing the trumpet proclaim God’s presence andresurrection promise.
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma often shares the story of the first concert he played after September 11. In the face of that country’s catastrophic loss, the orchestra members wondered: Do we play, or do we cancel? Together, they chose to continue with the performance as planned. Remembering that moment, he wrote, “Music will be the way that we will come together, because we’re asserting ourselves as a community, as a people, as a city, as whatever. And we need to be together.” Yes, together.
Music as spiritual practice. Life-giving music.
Recently I have learned a new hymn which continues to make its entry into my life. “God of the Movements and Martyrs.” This hymn was written by David LaMotte on a commission from the North Carolina Council of Churches in honor of their 85th Anniversary. It was arranged and recorded in six different styles by five different artists and premiered the week of June 15, 2020. Search the hymn title on YouTube. Please.
The lyrics form images which come repeatedly to my mind. The melody is simple and memorable. The cadences locate me in God. I am grounded, refreshed and quietened. The hymn is life-giving. It shapes my perception of the world even in this time. It expresses profoundly what is not easily, if at all, able to be expressed. It connects my experience with others, bringing us together.
Music as spiritual practice.
The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
In Christ Jesus – Shalom,