Every Saint a Past, Every Sinner a Future
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On a bit of a lark, I got to hear Dan Tyminski in concert last night. I was just browsing the interwebs when I saw it – Dan was coming to the Kent State concert hall tomorrow and I got nothing on the calendar. I texted Mimi and she said “let’s do it!”
So I bought the tickets, and last night Mimi and I climbed into the car, drove the one hour to Akron where we enjoyed a most lovely evening with some of the most delightful music we have heard in some time.
Now, if you don’t know Dan Tyminski, he’s the lead guitarist and background vocalist for Alison Kraus’ backing band, Union Station. He’s recorded his own music, but rarely has attracted much of a following for that. His biggest hit was recorded with Swedish DJ Avicii, an electric dance music artist of some renown. However, if, like me, you are a fan of the Coen Brothers’ movie O Brother, Where Art Thou then you will recognize, if not his face, then his voice. He dubbed the vocals to the song “Man of Constant Sorrow” for George Clooney. And yes, he closed the concert with that song last night.
Born in rural Vermont, Dan is quite known amongst bluegrass fans. Mimi and I happen to lovers of roots music. Getting a chance to spend an idle evening listening to Dan was a treat: a nice surprise on what would have otherwise been a quiet evening watching Jeopardy and then whatever PBS was showing.
The concert was a little unusual in that Dan played without his band. He told us he felt naked on the stage with them, and really missed having the banjo there with him. But this stripped down version of Dan was magical and gave him a chance to play music he had written and recorded but hadn’t sung in years. He brought a young dobro player with him, and the two of them riffed unrehearsed for a solid two hours. Their musicianship, showmanship, and pure raw talent was utterly delightful.
But on to the topic at hand and the reason why I am telling you all of this in this podcast about spiritual centering. Early in the set, he sang a song Huckelberry that he recorded early in his career. I had never heard the song. It is a melancholic rehearsal of the ravages of a life lived on rocky pathways, confessing times of hard living made by bad choices. In the refrain, there is a line that stopped me for a couple heartbeats and sent me reflecting on how good songwriting can touch the soul and heal deep wounds.
The line was this: every saint has a past, and every sinner a future.
14 years of theological training and 33 years practicing ministry and preaching and I never could write a line as profound and impactful as that.
In a world and within a Christianity that have grown far too judgmental and too quick to condemn, where hatred and superior, self-righteous arrogance displace grace, forgiveness, compassion, and understanding Dan writes a line that reminds us never to cast the first stone,
We are none of us without sin and all of us within the loving embrace of a God with no limit for forgiveness. And how often shall I forgive my enemy? Seventy-times seven times.
Every saint has a past, and every sinner a future.
Walk with grace my friends on this, our journey Into the Mystic.
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