Antiquity is not universally preferable to the present or to the future. Some of us can still remember “party telephone lines,” sugar-coated vaccinations in school, barefoot peripatetic journeys to school, etc. My father grew up with no electric lights, and his father told us about crossing the purple mountains and painted plains in horse-drawn, canvas-covered vehicles with no desire to determine the top speed! I am no antiquated obscurantist nostalgic longing to return to days without automobiles or air-conditioning!
But Mama and I did receive a thoughtful invitation and two tickets Sunday night for the Texas Gospel Music Festival (check the TGMF out on line because the national festival is coming up in November in Tennessee, and it will be over the top!). Now I was less than ecstatic that most of the folks in attendance had no Sunday night services to attend in their local assemblies. However, this evening was quite fulfilling, and it helped me to recall the message of the Song of Asaph recorded for posterity in Psalm 77:11-12. Asaph sang, “I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work and talk of Your deeds.”
Yes, the average age of those in the Hall may well have been 60; and Mama and I, in our eighties, did not one thing to ameliorate that statistic! However, I was pleasantly astonished to see many mid-life-aged adults and not a few youngsters! Amazingly, the Eisemann Center in Plano was a veritable ant bed of activity. Did I mention that all the presentations—Hebron Road, the Hoppers, Greater Vision were “Gospel Music”? As I surveyed the crowd, they seemed to me to be Gospel-starved. At one point, Gerald Wolfe was conversing on platform about a series of hymns that he recorded. I think it was Jon Epley who quipped that for the last twelve years Wolfe’s rendition of the hymns hit the top of the charts—at the nation’s funeral homes! We all laughed at this hysterical observation! Then I think I may have wiped away a tear when I thought that thousands of people have to attend their own memorial service in order to hear a Gospel hymn!
Come to think of it, Christianity is the faith of harmony! How often, listening to secular music, do you hear harmony? Occasionally—but not often. Contemporary church music has more but mimics the secular stage as much as possible. Gospel songs, ancient and contemporary, tend to present the harmony of grace through their musical scores. God’s grace brings us into harmony with Christ and with each other, and we magnify that with our music. Even in congregational singing in worship, you often hear the parishioners spontaneously blending their voices in a natural harmony.
Something else—maybe even more significant—came to my attention. In keeping with Asaph, who extolled the “wonders of old” every time one of these groups like Greater Vision began singing about Jesus, the cross, His resurrection, conversion of the lost, the return of Jesus, or the glories of our heavenly home, a surge of God’s powerful presence shot through these gathered saints. I suddenly felt like I knew every one of them personally. Well, I should confess that they were my brothers and sisters—in Christ. When given an invitation by the singing groups, they sang lustily as if they might never have another opportunity! Particularly was this true when we were remembering the wonders of God’s work in yesteryear. Some wept. We also laughed together.
As I watched Greater Vision perform, I empathized with their leader Gerald Wolfe. Following diagnosis of an unusual muscular disorder in his throat, he can no longer sing with his group. Now you could not miss him on the piano—I would pay the price of the ticket just to hear and watch him play. But while I knew it must be frustrating not to sing as he has spent his life doing, Wolfe’s acceptance of the gracious providences of God sealed the evening. Most of us there could identify in some way. Wolfe’s determination to play until invited to play the keys on heaven’s Grand Piano, his trust in Christ, and his marvelous ability to laugh in the face of the devil was a punctuation mark par excellence!
On behalf of thousands, I simply want to utter a heart-felt thank you to every Gospel Music musician on this earth. Please know that for all of us, your music is like the manna of God, fresh with the dew of the morning. You are an encouragement to our souls. You are hope enlightened afresh in our hearts as we shout, “Even so, come, LORD Jesus"!
President Sandy Creek Foundation