Psalm 95: 1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
North of Mombasa, Kenya was a little church in the middle of a field of maize. The church was named Zina Lagombe. The name in English means “Other Shores.” It was constructed of sticks, tied together with strips of tree bark; plastered with mud, a roof made of palm tree fronds and a dirt floor. The seats were split logs. Collection plates were hand carved wood. There were no doors or windows, just openings in the walls for air and light.
The spirit was alive and well on a Sunday in June. The members welcomed us, shook our hands, smiled and made us feel a part of the church.
I remember the Kenyan preacher passed the plate. When it returned to the altar, he looked into the plate. Apparently the collection did not suit him. He preached hard for ten minutes then passed the plate a second time. This time the “take” was a little more. When he saw it, he murmured and passed the plate a third time.
In an American church, if the collection is not enough, next Sunday’s sermon will likely be on tithing, 2 Corinthians 9: 7 “Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.”
The collection plate contained several ears of corn, a coconut and a few schillings of Kenyan currency. One member brought a chicken for an offering, but the fowl had a different idea. He was last seen on the road to Malindi.
Finally, the music leader went to the front. She said a few words in Swahili and then began to sing. I could not recognize the words, but did recognize the tune. “Nothing But the Blood,” was a song I’d heard since the womb.
Her music instruments were two blocks of wood. She slapped them together to establish a rhythm. I found this to be amazing. All these years later, every time I hear that song, I think of Zina Lagombe and those two blocks of wood.
At the Mount Zion Aussie Indigenous Church in Perth Australia, I well remember “Marching to Zion” and Pastor Keith marching to Zion across the front of the church, lifting feet high and singing. The spirit was (and I’m sure still is) alive and well.
In many Aboriginal churches and other organizations, an instrument is used called a didgeridoo. “The didgeridoo is a wind instrument, played with continuously vibrating lips to produce a continuous drone while using a special breathing technique called circular breathing. The didgeridoo was developed by Aboriginal peoples of northern Australia at least 1,500 years ago, and is now in use around the world, though still most strongly associated
with Indigenous Australian music.” Wikipedia
Music is a universal language. For the most part, I am a music illiterate. However, the tunes of those hymns are consistent, in most cases, from one language to another. The only song I know all the way through is “Happy Birthday.” When a musician says this next song is in the key of “eh,” I have no idea what is meant.
When they sang “Nothing But the Blood,” at Zina Lagombe, I felt a calmness I had not yet felt in Kenya. The song connected me to my home church. I remembered, as the African congregation sang, my mother playing that song on the piano. I could actually visualize her sitting on that old rotating stool playing. I still have that stool.
The old hymns convey such a great message. Another favorite of mine is “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” “What a fellowship, what a joy divine, What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day, Safe and secure from all alarms; Leaning on the everlasting arms.” What a great, comforting message in that old song.
I’m going to have to go record by saying, my all-time favorite hymn is “The Solid Rock.” “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” What great words to hear, to live by and to believe in.
Hang on a minute, I just thought of another song, “What a Day.” The words give such hope and promise: “What a day that will be, When my Jesus I shall see, And I look upon His face, The One who saved me by His grace; When He takes me by the hand, And leads me through the Promised Land, What a day, glorious day that will be.”
Okay, I confess, I’ve got more than one favorite. I suppose my favorite is the one I’m hearing right now. A few key words in songs really catch my attention. For example, the words “cling” and “cherish” in “The Old Rugged Cross,” really convey a message.
Different songs invoke different feelings. “How Great Thou Art” actually creates in my chest a physical sensation. To contemplate the greatness of our Creator because of a song is dynamic and definitely a different response than what I’m used to.
Connections-we humans must be connected. We have been connected to the world by the internet (and I suppose that’s mostly good). But, we must also be connected to our Creator. That connection is established by the Bible, by Christ Jesus, and by the Spirit. There is another connection that is Biblically based, and that is music.
Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
So, keep on singing, and don’t forget to listen to the words.
Come to think of it, I think my favorite song may be “Amazing Grace.”