John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

They're Playing Our Song

Every group of people has a song. Americans stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner"; it's our song. Schools have fight songs. Certain denominations have songs that they rally behind. Baptists I know love "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"; I like it, too, even though I'm not Baptist. The song I grew up with was called "Our God, He Is Alive". It was song #728b in our hymnal, and all the song leader had to do was call out that number. Everyone knew the words and knew that we would be standing for this one. My friend Dane will always stand and sing whenever he hears "Hail to the Redskins"; it's his song. For some it's "Brick House" by the Commodores. For others it's "Baba O'Riley" by The Who. "Imagine" by John Lennon. "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls. Each of these songs is associated with various friends.

For the record, when Jill and I got married, our song was "My Romance" -- the old Rogers and Hart standard. It's a little obscure, but we've never really been what you would call mainstream.

Every group of people have a song, and their song reveals something about who they are and what's going on in their story. When certain things happen in your story, somebody press play and let's hear "our song"!

The people of God are the same. We have a song; it's called "The Song of the Redeemed". It's been sung in various places -- a wilderness near the Red Sea, a jail cell in Philippi, an opulent cathedral, a tiny church building. The tune changes -- as does the instrumentation -- but the song remains the same. It is the soundtrack to the story of God -- the song only those who have been redeemed from slavery and despair and certain doom can sing.

Tonight I get to go and talk to a group of teenagers about this song. I'm in a place where churches are still wounded and confused by the worship wars that swept through Christianity a few years ago. Suddenly, the old songs didn't work anymore. The lyrics were archaic and hard to understand. The tunes were hard to hear and sing. The melody lines were quaint and difficult. So, new songs were invented.

I would have hoped that older people would be mature enough to know that this isn't about them. The songs we sing (or don't sing) don't have to be their favorites. New songs are just as good -- in some cases much better than the songs I grew up on. I would also have hoped that younger people would be thoughtful enough to know that this isn't about them, either. That tradition is something we should honor. Old songs still have much to teach us -- deep truths that we neglect at our own risk.

Sadly, neither of these was the case. Old people got mad. Young people got mad. Churches split. Communities were torn apart. Families chose sides, and none of it honored God very well.

Old songs -- new songs -- the song is the same. We all sing "The Song of the Redeemed", and the question really isn't do you like the music? The question is how attached are you to the story? The songs we sing are sung in response to the story of God that is unfolding around us everywhere all the time. When certain things happen in our story, somebody press play and let's hear our song!