When the Song of the Humpback Whale was released onto the commercial market, it became a best-selling musical phenomenon. Originally found on recordings designed to detect the presence of foreign spy submarines, the songs emerged as unearthly, haunting and heart-grippingly beautiful. The tapes had captured an interplay of sonic cadences that led eventually to a revolution in the conservation of a species being pushed to the brink of extinction through multi-national whale fishing. The human consciousness was awakened to the possibility that untabulated, unrestricted slaughter would rob the planet of one of its most majestic, intelligent, but little understood gifts to the natural world. Sadly, the exploitation of resources still subsumes any consideration of the ultimate loss of species, but the thinking population has been alerted to the danger of depriving ecosystems of vital entities, plants and creatures that contribute untold, and yet undiscovered benefits to well-being and natural balances. All of nature sings its testimony to the rhythm and flow of life, regeneration and companionship.
The songs of humanity express the whole gamut of emotion and experience from the formality of pomp and circumstance and the archives of history in folk songs, to the dirge of mourning, the dance of celebration and the wistful dreams of romance.
A debate has risen in recent times over the contentious lyrics of our end-of-prom season songs, but these are not merely an irrelevant harking back to times of global trade and dominance. They remain themes of aspiration that our land will always continue to be a place where hope and glory, in achievement, will flourish alongside justice, freedom of speech and worship, and will promote opportunity for education and enterprise. They encapsulate our longing for assurance of autonomy, security and creativity in all its diversity.
So too with the hymns that accompany us on our spiritual journey. Be Thou my Vision invites the God of all knowing to lighten with wisdom, the horizons of our inner sight. The King of Love my Shepherd is unites thankful hearts in praise and gratitude for loving provision and guidance. I will sing the wondrous story of the Christ who died for me, signals a commitment to the mission of sharing the good news of salvation through faith in the atoning life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
When Jesus, in company with his disciples, gathered to sing the Psalms of his forefather, King David, what thoughts must have passed through his mind as he contemplated the prophetic aspects of the Suffering Saviour (Psalm 22), the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23) and the King of Glory (Psalm 24). With divine insight he would have anticipated future times when the songs of his people would be wrenched from them in that occupied and subjugated land. Yet scripture records that ‘for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 2:2)
The music of Heaven reaches down to heal the painful wounds of the past, to set feet leaping on the heights, to create a brand new song in the cleansed heart. It has been said, “Man’s heart is the harp from which the divine hand produces the richest music”, but all nature joins in the refrain, each species with its own unique contribution and harmony.
Love songs from heaven are filling the earth,
bringing great hope to all nations.
Evil has prospered, but truth is alive,
in this dark world the light still shines. (N & T Richards)