A Universal Language

“. . . how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” Acts 2:8 (RSV)

One of the greatest experiences of my life was a journey to “the Holy Land.” It was awe-inspiring to walk where Jesus walked and to see places that I had only read and heard about. But the place I remember most is the Church of Saint Anne in “old city Jerusalem.” Christian tradition holds that the Church bears the name of Jesus’ maternal grandmother, Anne. It is also noted for the Bethesda Pool (John 5:2-9), where Jesus performed many miracles of faith. Its architecture is both simple and majestic, with cross-vaulted ceilings and giant pillars. But most striking to me was its amazing acoustics that seemed to transform even the simplest prayer and praise into a musical language that appeared to penetrate the heart of every hearer.

The day I visited, I sang the song, “Precious Lord,” and as I sang, the tone of my voice seemed to re-echo throughout the building. It was amazing. I had no musical accompaniment. There was no organ. There were no microphones, or technological devices–nothing to detract from the sound or the words of the song. But notably as I sang, every eye was on me and was intently engaged. Even more noticeable were the tears that flowed so freely from every eye (including mine). It was awesome. Persons from around the world, many who did not speak or understand the words I was singing in English, appeared to understand something more — they understood the spirit of my words. Could this have been what it was like on the day of Pentecost? “Surely, the presence of the Lord was in that place!”

My experience at the Church of Saint Anne helped me to see that music is more than mere words and instrumentation. Music is a universal language that resounds in the human heart. It is a powerful expression that speaks to joy, passion and pain. Music moves us–sometimes even to tears. It chills, thrills, and compels. It reaches impenetrable places in the human spirit defying barriers of race, culture, and denomination. It spans the gamut of human feeling and emotion. No speech or sermon can surpass its power. I believe music is a gift from the heart of God to the human heart.

I cannot fully express how I felt as I sang on that day, in that land, in that place, in the presence of God, and in the midst of God’s children.  So, I have borrowed two brief videos from YouTube to help visualize my phenomenal experience. To God be ALL the Glory for the gift of music–a truly universal language attuned to the very Heart of God.

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