But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated to them. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
How do you teach a song?
A song can be so many things, so to make it easy, let’s just define a song as a combination of a melody and lyrics. The lyrics are meant to convey some kind of experience, narrative, belief, collected and delivered wisdom for the singer, listener, and participant. It’s why we teach simple songs to children. It’s the easiest way to internalize complex ideas like the alphabet, or lots of information like how many sons Father Abraham had.
A melody is a little harder to grasp. Its defined in the dictionary as “a rhythmical succession of single tones producing a distinct musical phrase or idea” which sounds like trying to make a drawing of a sunset using only one color. Music is hard to describe with words because it’s something that you experience, enter into, embody. A melody is literally made with your body! Your lungs push air through your wind pipe which produces a tone that you can melodically manipulate to whatever you want it to be. I do think “distinct” is the right word though because what differentiates a melody from all other melodies is it’s distinct placing of tones together. It’s how we know Happy Birthday from Don’t Stop Believing.
To learn a song is to remember the words while embodying the notes.
Before He departed, the Risen One invited the Followers to participate in the world by inviting others to follow, baptizing them into a deeper identity, and teaching them to obey everything that the Risen One has commanded to do. In some ways, it worked! Here we are still talking about it today. In some ways, it hasn’t worked. We just have to look at the recorded history of atrocities done in the name of converting “unbelievers”.
As I was meditating on this passage, I found myself very uncomfortable with what many have titled “the Great Commission.” I think it’s because from my experience the emphasis has mostly been put on the “making disciples” part; which some have interpreted it as team building. In order to make a team you must label who’s on the team and who’s not on the team. And then it can all be about building the team, managing the team, playing other teams, defeating other teams. Maybe I’m the only one who’s been horrified by the demeaning and destructive things that have been done in the name of proving a team as the winning team, but I don’t think I’m the only one.
Also, team building seems to leave out what’s at the heart of being a disciple… which is obeying the commands of the Risen One. What were the commands again? He’s on record saying that “love God and love your neighbor as yourself” pretty much sums up everything. One time with his Followers, He got real specific and said people will know you’re my Followers if you “love one another.” So, basically, love. Loving one another. The command is to teach others how to love. How to love God and love others. How to embody love. How to be in love. How do you teach others how to be in love?
I wonder if “teaching them all that I have commanded” could be thought of more in the ways of how you would teach a song.
If you try to teach love just using words you’ll miss a big part of it, because love is something that must be embodied, like a melody. That’s why love is often best portrayed in a song, lyrics and melody, because it is the amalgamation of ideas and embodiment. It’s no surprise that most songs are about love, but a good song needs to have equal parts of lyrics and melody.
Haven’t you ever heard a recently released radio song from the pop making industrial complex and thought this beat is amazing but these lyrics are so shallow? And haven’t you ever witnessed someone butchering one of your favorite songs because of their lackluster performance? A good song is lyrics and melody.
It’s the same with belief. Have you ever experienced the joy of finally finding the words to express what you have already intuited in what it means to live a sacred life? And have you ever experienced the disconnect with someone who knew all the right words but the tone of their life sounded so out of key? Belief is not just knowing the words. Belief is lyrics plus embodying the melody. It’s something distinct that differentiates from other melodies.
When Jesus said you will be known as my Followers if you “love one another”, I don’t think he was talking about mission statements. He was alluding to the song that love makes in the world. He was inviting his Followers into a song He believed was at the center of existence. He was inviting us to place that song at the center of our lives, to learn the lyrics and the melody, and then to join Him in singing that song throughout the world.
I guess my question for us, then, is what is the song that we’re already singing?
You’re already singing a song with your life. There is a song playing in you and whether you realize it or not, that’s the song you’re singing in the world and trying to teach others to sing. Some of us may need to really examine the song we’re singing. The words may be fine, but the melody is way off. Some of us have destructive songs that we believe we’re supposed to sing and teach others. What is the song you’re singing?
I think the resurrection is singing a new song. To sing a song you must first learn it. You must listen to the words and learn the melody. It’s only when you’ve internalized it that you can invite others to sing that song too.
For me, the song that the Risen One put in me, the one that I’ve been learning, the one that has been put on eternal repeat, is “You are My Beloved.”