As someone who spends far more time writing and preaching sermons than listening to them, I find myself needing to find other ways and other voices which give me the opportunity to hear and understand the word, and believe again. One of the ways I do this is through music. Anyone who has been to church knows that there are times when a hymn or other piece of music can sometimes proclaim the Gospel more clearly, more honestly that a spoken sermon. But Friday night I heard one of the best sermons I've heard in a while--not in church, but at the Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis. The Ram's Head is a wonderful, intimate concert venue, and Marcus and I went on a date--yes, a real date!--to hear a band called Over the Rhine. They're a great sort of country/jazz/folk/soul band--piano, guitar, bass, drums and a lead singer, Karin Bergquist, whose voice is nothing short of amazing.
Before one of their songs, the piano/guitarist, Linford Deitweiler, mentioned that he had grown up around a lot of church music--his father had been a travelling evangelist. And he asked the theoretical question: what do you think is on God's iPod anyway? If God is looking for suggestions, I recommend getting this one off iTunes.
It was the second song they sang, a song called "Long Lost Brother" that goes like this:
I thought that we'd be further along by now I can't remember how we stumbled to this place
I loved you like a long lost brother On a bad day maybe I thought why bother I've seldom seen so much anger in a face
I wanna do better; I wanna try harder; I wanna believe, down to the letter
Jesus and Mary, can you carry us Across this ocean into the arms of forgiveness
I don't mean to laugh out loud; I'm trying to come clean, trying to shed my doubt Maybe I should just keep my big mouth shut
More often than not when it comes to you You want whatever's not in front of you Deep down I know this includes me too
So tell me your troubles let your pain rain down I know my job I've been around; I invest in the mess, I'm a low cost dumping ground
Trouble is I'm so exhausted The plot, you see, I think I've lost it I need the grace to find what can't be found.
(Words and Music by Linford Detweiler)
To me, it's a song about longing, about the brokeness of human relationships, about our need for grace and forgiveness. In other words: the Gospel. This song preached to me through it's honesty, and through it's glimpse of hope. Not exactly what I expected to get on a Friday night at the Ram's Head Tavern. But I guess it just goes to show, the Spirit of God is truly everywhere--moving through life with creation's soundtrack on the holy iPod.