This past Monday, I went to a Memorial Day concert at Pisgah Brewery in Black Mountain. Old Crow Medicine Show, an old time bluegrass band was playing, and I accompanied my friend Natalie who happens to be one of their biggest fans. It was amazing to watch the show, but I found it interesting to watch my friend at this concert. She knew every word to every song, she sang along, and she connected with other people who knew the songs as well as she did.
I must confess I’m not as familiar with these songs as I’d like to be. I really enjoy the band; I just don’t have much of their music lying around to listen to. But there is one song that I do know, many people here where I live call it the anthem of Boone, North Carolina. Wagon Wheel was originally written by Bob Dylan but was later gifted to Old Crow Medicine Show. The song has words like these,
So rock me momma like a wagon wheel
Rock me momma any way you feel
Hey momma rock me.
Rock me momma like the wind and the rain
Rock me momma like a southbound train
Hey momma rock me.
As the opening chords to that song came on, I will go to my grave knowing it was a glimpse of what the kingdom of God might look like. People joined arms with strangers, started swaying, and singing the familiar words as if we had known them instinctually. In those moments, I felt like the church could learn a line from that brewery there in Black Mountain.
I’m not saying that we should offer catchy themes that everyone knows to gain momentum or numerical attendance. I’m not saying an elaborate light show will suddenly bring back the ‘nones.’ In fact, I’m saying something quite the opposite. People need the kingdom of God when they come to church. It’s our job to be constituents of that kingdom by how we work, worship, and live in community together. We need to join arms, even with strangers, and sing the songs that brought us to this place. We need to hear the word proclaimed. Deeper than that, we need to listen for the song in the heart of God, the song that brings us grace upon grace. When we hear that song, the voice of God, when we hear that, we find ourselves lost in wonder, love and praise, as Charles Wesley penned. We find ourselves singing a song we have known far before any of us could remember where we first learned it.
Next time you’re at a concert, watch the people who sing along. Let it be a reminder that the song of God is big enough for all of us to sing, and God has invited us to lock arms and join in. Will you?