Friday, April 24, 2009

I saw something special last night

Last night our school, Westminster Christian Academy, had it's Spring music program. The program includes selections from our band, jazz band, choirs, etc. It's like a recital so parents and other loved ones can see their children's progress musically and all that. My wife was WCA's music teacher for 10 years so I have a great appreciation what it takes to teach and organize such a large and diversified group of students. Our current teacher, Mrs. Billie Wedel did a stellar job selecting music and directing all the groups. I praise God for her ministry at WCA.

I've been to 12 years-worth of WCA programs (Christmas and Spring), they are always enjoyable, but being honest, we're talking about young students learning to play instruments and sing. We're not talking the Chicago Symphony and Orchestra.

But something happened last night that I think was remarkable and telling.

A late addition to the program was a violin duet from two of our 7th grade female students. The girls had recently represented our school at a contest and Mrs. Wedel thought the audience would enjoy them playing. As the girls began to play "The Old Rugged Cross" it was clear they were very gifted playing the classic hymn beautifully. It was a blessing to hear such quality in young students. What happened next I have never seen in 12 years of WCA programs- as soon as they finished the piece the audience spontaneously stood to applaud. A standing ovation at a WCA program? Wow. It's never happened to my knowledge.

Now, I don't want to over analyze this, but I did notice from my vantage point that several grandparents were first to stand, the rest of the audience followed suit. There are two reasons I believe the audience gave these two fine, budding musicians a standing ovation- First, they played skillfully and beautifully no matter what their age/grade. They deserved a strong response for their dedication and preparation. Second, and more profoundly, I think the piece they played, "The Old Rugged Cross", struck a deep chord with the audience, especially the older folks.

I think many older Christians are profoundly concerned about the state of Christianity today. I think many older Christians think the Church has lost her first love. The Church today largely resembles a bumbling junior high school boy trying to impress a girl that will never like him anyway. "The Old Rugged Cross" speaks to the heart of the gospel, the simple message of Christ crucified. I feel the standing ovation was at least partially a resounding approval of the song selection and the particular message of the song. I want to think the standing ovation was at least a statement, especially from the older generation, concerning their longing for the Church stop it's seeming silliness and to go back to preaching and living the message of Calvary.

Of course, this message of the Cross is why I am a pastor, why Redeemer exists, and why Westminster will strive with all it's might to train young people to view the world through the lens of Scripture and live radically Christ-centered lives.

I don't think I'm over-reading what I saw and experienced last night.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.


Frontier Forest said...

Great tribute Tony! Don’t have to old to appreciate God’s music. I bet there were folks of all ages reaching for tissues. But indeed, something almost magical and moving about the old hymns. Those “special” hymns that paint a vivid illustration of His promise; who He is, why He came, who He came for, and why He died. This “special” tune, played as an instrumental, brings every ear bountiful and harmonious pleasures, heavenly imagery of our Lord and Savior. Sometime singing of the words isn’t necessary, just listening to the melody reflects the power of the message.

Anonymous said...

Did someone record the duet? I would love to hear it.
I love the old hymns, they move the soul,their messages are powerful. Of course I am of the older generation and if it doesn't need to be fixed then don't change the melody. I love to hear hymns played with the violin, harp, horn,piano, organ(if it doesn't drown out the voices), but the Gitar doesn't give them the "Umph" that the other instruments have. Maybe an amplified gitar would, Ugh!
Just call me an "Oldie"

Zach said...

That is a wonderful hymn, Tony, and I have no doubt that your interpretation of audience's reaction is accurate.