A buzz of excitement surrounded the 2014 WELS National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts. By Friday everyone had a favorite moment from the conference engraved on their memory. We sat down for the closing service ready to bring the conference to an end and to savor those highlights on our varying journeys home.
Then we came to the closing hymn, Jerusalem the Golden.
The opening trumpet blast was the first salvo. Timpani added strength. The strings soared overhead. Composure crumbled.
There were approximately 1200 people in attendance; not everyone sang. Many discovered that they were unable even to open their mouths. So stirred by emotion they were content only to listen.
I wonder, how many dearly loved Christians, now sainted, came to mind in that room? How many memories of too-still bodies in too-formal coffins flashed across the mind’s eye? How many thousands of tears had the people in that room shed when the wages of sin barged into their life once more?
I wonder, as the trumpets continued to blast and the strings continued their flight, how many then saw the Christ, who is ever with them? How many saw the serene daylight and the rich, green pastures in which those dearly loved saints now live? How many saw the stately throne of David surrounded by people—not dead at all, but living!–shouting with joy because from their cares they have release?
Shortly after the service I commented on Twitter that I now rightly understood Martin Luther’s comment that, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise.” With music wed to a text rich with God’s Word, God transformed that room into a tiny outpost of his heavenly kingdom where there were no cares, where there was only Christ and his triumph.
And then it ended. We sprang from our seats to applaud. Time to go home, back to the very real cares and to pastures not so rich and green.
Jesus in mercy bring us
To that dear land of rest
Where sings the host of heaven
Your glorious name to bless.