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Forming the Life of the Congregation Through Music

 

In order to understand the idea of an overarching picture, we will look at one example of taking a text of Scripture and turning it into song lyrics.

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:6-8 presents a picture of what God’s final redemption of the world will look like. Three images stand out: a banquet, the removal of a veil, and the removal of tears and disgrace. Taken together, the overall scene is one of a family dinner (or even a picnic) in celebration of God’s healing work in the world.

After working these images into matching numbers of syllables with a rhyme scheme, we come out with this:

On this mountain God will make a banquet,

All the people feasting, as a sign:

God’s delight is lavished on his people,

Laughing, singing loud, and drinking wine.

 

On this mountain God will rip the veil;

All the people wore it as they mourned.

God delights to swallow death forever.

Laughing, singing loud, the grave is scorned.

 

On this mountain God will heal our sorrows,

From the people wipe away all tears.

God delights in comforting his people,

Laughing, singing loud, uncounted years.

The opening phrase On this mountain repeats in each verse, providing unity not only to the text but to the scene itself: these events are all happening here. The concluding phrase laughing, singing loud lends a sense of celebration, not so much of sober reflection as of giddy and unrestrained joy. (Loud instead of loudly is poetic license.) The second verse does not mean that the grave itself is laughing, but that the people cheerfully deride the powerlessness of death.

Worship leaders will find that rigorous engagement with imagery and narrative, along with rhyme and meter, can become an avenue of blessing their congregations.

 

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Category: Fall 2009, Ministry

About the Author: John Mortensen, D.M.A. (University of Maryland), is Professor of Music at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. A teacher of classical and jazz piano, he frequently appears as a concert artist and masterclass teacher at colleges and universities across the USA. Dr. Mortensen also performs and teaches Irish and American roots music, playing mandolin, octave mandolin, Irish flute, Irish button accordion, five-string banjo, Uilleann pipes, and Irish whistle. He created America’s only college-level traditional Irish music session class. www.cedarville.edu/Academics/Music-and-Worship/Faculty-Staff/Music/Mortensen-John.aspx JohnMortensen.com

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