Both. Always and all ways. Both.
Who knew? Who knew that such a powerful connection could be made across borders, across age groups, across life experiences? Who knew that together we would hear a song- it would be comfort, inspiration and be a balm? Who knew that when we watched a music video it would remind me of both the always and all the ways that the Spirit works? Two years ago, I didn't know that on a very hot afternoon in El Paso seeds were being planted that would provide hope and inspiration in challenging times, but the Holy Spirit was at work .
The Holy Spirit knew. The Holy Spirit works and weaves among us. The Spirit is the gift Jesus promised. Jesus said- “always”- I will be with you always. Matthew 28:20. Remember? That was the instruction; to remember. Remember that I am with you always, to the end of the age.
This song/video is 9 minutes. As we sat in that hot church we let the music wash over us. Two years ago when I heard it for the first timethe words spoke to my situation. It had been a long and intense day in El Paso at the US/Mexico border. We had heard, first hand, the pain and suffering of those who are trapped in a poverty, the warfare of drug cartels and the challenges of no clean water and limited resources.
What we had seen that day- we now gathered to understand and let it sink in. So we started by listening. Listening to the song. Listeningfor how the Spirit was calling us to respond. As so we listened to this song and were invited to sing along As the lyrics filled the screen the teenage boy next to me had tears streaming down his face as well. He had been a “tough case”, often separating himself from others with critical remarks and a sense of contempt for what others would say. And yet here we were united, both with tears. I remembered. I remembered how the power of this music and our experience connected us. The Spirit moved us.
Since that trip to the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering I have returned to this song as a prayer, a plea, a balm, and it has helped me remember. In the grief, sorrow, distress, heartbreak of the events of this week I decided to write out the the lyrics in my journal so I could remember.
Two years later the learning, the growing, the inner change for me continues. The Spirit works in strange and mysterious ways. This song by U2 often runs through my mind when I think of the power of the Holy Spirit. And I remember. Remembering when we waited in line overnight to get tickets to see U2 in concert in Minneapolis I think of how different it was to get concert tickets in the 1980's. Before "online" was even a term - we waited in line. In line we made connections with other hopeful concert goers. When months later we attended the concert I experienced again the power of music to connect people.
Music can be a powerful connector. In worship last week we heard 960 vocalists and 364 instrumentalists come together to share the power of God working through music here is that special performance for Pentecost worship Music can evoke the deep connections among us and between us. The joy and energy that was created among those who put together this piece of music was Spirit inspired.
In memory, I can return to powerful times of music. Music helps me to remember. Music helps me catch my breath. Music helps with the fear, anger, grief, and disconnection. It often helps me when I find that I unconsciously hold my breath. Singing takes breathing. To be united in song is a powerful witness. Music helps me to remember. Remembering how music and song can be vehicles of the Spirit to create connection and community I wonder how we will learn to sing in new ways in this new reality of how Covid19 can be spread through singing. Yet music is more than just singing or instruments, notes or sounds. Music can be the unity in times of joy and exhaustion, comfort and hope in times of anger and frustration and calm and quiet in the times of fear. Music inspires.
So in the here and now- I also remember God keeps promises. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words to express… and there are songs in hearts of all of us. Catching my breath I pause to offer up a deep sigh as a prayer. Inspiration often comes what seems like “out of the blue”. No easy answers to complex challenges. That day in El Paso there were memories and connections made. Seeds of hope were planted. When I hear that song "Oceans" again, I remember. I remember there is strength in numbers. I remember that together we can learn and grow in a variety of ways- the Spirit is alive and at work in our world- always and in all ways.