[For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.”] Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. – Psalm 57:1 (NIV)
I was born in 1982, which means I grew up in the glorious sunset years of the mixtape. Cassettes were bountiful, an off-brand Walkman cost about as much as a Big Mac meal, and the radio formed a shared musical vocabulary for everyone I knew. The crafting of a mixtape was an art in itself. Was the mix going to be bouncy and upbeat? Broody and thoughtful? Was it going to ever-so-gingerly tiptoe up to the line of telling my crush how I felt?
It was high stakes.
At issue was whether I would be understood, whether I would be known as myself, whether I would find myself alone or accompanied. I knew those were the stakes when I was a teenager. And the psalmist knew all of this too. Pairing music with a message can convey an unmatched depth of emotion. That’s why the psalmist is at pains to make sure you know that these words are supposed to go with the song “Do not Destroy.” Not “Lonesome Valley,” not “Bryn Calfaria.” It’s to the tune of “Do not Destroy.” The music matters very much.
As faith communities across the country continue the reinvention of worship from the past year and a half, raise a prayer of thanksgiving for all the music directors and church musicians out there. Every week they are putting together a mixtape of biblical proportions. Pairing music with a message to convey an unmatched depth of emotion. At issue is meaning and identity, accompaniment and community. It’s a big deal!
All they ask is that you listen. Come to worship. Crack open that mixtape. Read the song list. Pop it in your Walkman, and connect.
Thank you God for the musicians!
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.