Singing in the Wilderness

What follows here are the opening comments offered by Dietrich Bartel at our February 20 Wednesday evening Lenten liturgy. This reflection bridged us into a sung exploration of some of the great hymns of the Lenten season. Dietrich is the organist and choir director of All Saints Church, and Dean of Music at Canadian Mennonite University.  

Music is so ubiquitous today. You don’t seem to able to get away from it. And many people, it seems, don’t appear to want to – plugged in, as it were, to some form of electronic media every waking hour. Walking in the park or down the sidewalk, driving in their cars or riding on the bus, it seems that there is an insatiable thirst for constant music of one form or another. It normally annoys me just a bit when I can’t sit on the bus without hearing someone’s iTunes spilling into my aural space.

But maybe there is something else going on here. Just maybe what I am witnessing in this barrage of melody is in fact an unfulfilled longing for another music, a music of the spheres, a heavenly music which reflects and expresses the designs of a loving Creator. It is a harmony which is much more perfect and profound than the harmony of human music. It is the harmony of the Trinity, of which the music we know is but a dim reflection. It is a harmony which beckons to us, which calls us to itself, and which keeps us wanting to harmonize with it. It is Augustine’s Musica, the music of the heavens, the harmony of the Creator which inspires song in every culture, every human.

It is not that music is a universal language, for there are as many musics as there are cultures, but it is a universal phenomenon. Fundamentally, we do not sing just because it is enjoyable, just becuase it is something we can do together, or because it’s a good way to remember words. While those might all be good reasons for making music, there is a much more fundamental and significant reason for music making: we make music because we long for God, for a living harmony, like the thirst for living water. We make music because we yearn for healing, for wholeness, for wellness in our wilderness.

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