I go to work on Tuesday with a detailed to-do list. If everything goes perfectly, I will end the day writing a column for Baptist News Global. If I get through six of the 10 items, it will be a productive day. If I get through five, I will have kept up. If I only get through four, I will be seriously behind.
I get off to a good start, but make the mistake of checking email. (Don’t look at your email if you want to get things done.) I have seven emails to which I need to respond. The wonderful sermon ideas I had on Monday night are now clearly unacceptable. I remember something I was supposed to have done a week ago.
Someone I want to talk to drops by. I have several conversations with children at Plymouth Church School. Carol is having lunch with a friend, so I am on my own for lunch — which I should have realized before I went home at noon.
On Tuesday afternoon, we have worship planning and staff meetings. I enjoy both, even when they go long. At 6, I have gotten through three of the 10 items on my to-do list.
I want to work late, but I have told choir members that I will go to the Hymn Sing at 7. I do not have time to sing, but I take my bad attitude with me to the choir room.
Our minister of music, Bruce Oelschlager — whose name makes me think of German beer — has chosen international hymns. We start with a Spanish tune, “Come Christians, Join to Sing.”
The people in attendance are smart enough to know that if we do not want to sing, then we have lost our way. Music is yoga for people who do not want to wear yoga pants.
We sing a Brazilian hymn, “O Sing to the Lord/Cantad al Senor” — which is Spanish, though they speak Portuguese in Brazil. I consider raising my hand to complain.
We sing a Scottish song with the wonderful line, “The house of faith has many rooms where we have never been.”
People who sing are happier than people who do not. Singing makes it hard to stay frustrated.
We sing “Christ Beside Me,” a Gaelic hymn based on the Prayer of St. Patrick from the fifth century.
I am no longer thinking about what I should have gotten done.
We sing the Ghanaian hymn “Jesu, Jesu” and ask God to “fill us with your love.”
Singing reminds us of things that are not on our to-do list.
Martin Luther wrote, “Music is a lovely gift of God which has often wakened and moved me. Music drives away the devil and makes people forget all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. My heart bubbles up and overflows in response to music, which has so often refreshed me and delivered me from dire plagues.”
When the world seems bent on madness, music offers hope.
You get to the symphony just as the orchestra begins to warm up and sit down next to a well-dressed gentleman. You introduce yourself and ask what he does. He responds, “I’m a musician, a conductor.”
You say, “I don’t want to take advantage of you, but I’ve never been able to figure out what’s going on during warm-ups.”
He begins pointing things out: “That violin is practicing the overture. That cello is putting her music in order, studying the score. The bass is staring at the hardest part. The percussionist is playing the same notes over and over because he only has eight measures to play all night.”
The orchestra begins to tune their instruments. Every instrument is silent, then the oboe plays a note. Everyone plays a note. The oboe plays a note. The conductor explains that the oboe cannot be tuned to anything else, so they tune to the oboe. You start listening for the oboe. You are listening more intently and hearing more.
If we listen carefully, we hear the music of God’s love and tune our lives to it. When we are too busy to sing, we should sing. If we are too tired to sing, we should try. If we think we are too important to sing, we need to sing.