The thunderous applause echoed across the auditorium with the crescendo of cheers as people stood to their feet in appreciation of the musical finale offered by the local high school choir. It wasn’t the finale I was expecting from the public school’s musical director, but it certainly brought me to my feet with the rest of the audience.
The petite and obviously passionate music teacher of this choir clearly knew how to extract in the best way, the talent of her students. And it was also very clear that each student held a deep fondness for this revered teacher who is retiring with the close of this school year.
It’s been a while since I have enjoyed listening to a high school choir concert. The last time was when we hosted an exchange student from Denmark for the 2012/13 school year. It’s been a wee bit longer than that since I was the high school student experiencing the camaraderie and pride of status in being an “accomplished” musician within the fine arts program. Our music teachers - there were two of them - also did their best to encourage our giftedness and talents. But honestly, it paled in comparison to what I heard last night. And when the teacher, herself, sang to her senior students as a parting message to them, it was abundantly clear to me that she could easily have been a 21st century Barbara Streisand, Julie Andrews, or Celine Dion. She would have made a lot more money than a rural high school music teacher makes, I’m quite sure. Instead, she chose to invest her life into pulling the very best out of gangly, rambunctious, children and adolescents enrolled in grades six through 12. She turned that adolescent energy into a professional, well-disciplined, performance of incredible talent and giftedness.
Now you know where I’m going with this, right? Jesus invested his life into our gangly rambunctiousness to bring out the very best in us. While that is the best truth, my point is that Jesus was proclaimed loud and clear at that public school last night. And the final song will echo in the hearts and minds of all those students throughout their lives. When I was a 17-year-old student in Mr. Mealy’s college choir at Bethany, we sang Great is Thy Faithfulness exactly as he taught us to. Now, over 50 years later, I still sing that hymn exactly like Mr. Mealy taught us. Fifty years from now, I believe, every one of those students will remember the heart and enthusiasm with which they sang last night. And I believe the words they sang so beautifully just may influence them on their life’s journey as they mature and realize that, “He Never Failed Me Yet” (Robert Ray).
I will sing of God’s mercies
Every day, every hour
He gives me power
I will sing and give thanks to Thee
For all the dangers, toils, and snares
That He has brought me out.
He is my God and I’ll serve Him
No matter what the test
Trust and never doubt
Jesus will surely bring you out
He never failed me yet.
We hear a lot of complaining about God being taken out of public schools. I’m thankful I live in an area that is not bowing to the tyranny around us. A community where high school students learn, and their concerts include, “Carry the Light” by Andrew Beck, “Cantate Domino” by Jozee Swider, and “He Never Failed Me Yet” by Robert Ray. And I’m especially glad I live in a community that rises to its feet acknowledging the electrifying presence of God in the students presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ in song.
Father, thank you for where I live. It is where you have placed me, whether for a season of my life, or a lifetime. Help me to look for you in unexpected places. Thank you that I will find you when I look for you with all my heart. Bless our students and teachers as they finish out this school year. May this coming generation find us faithful. In Jesus’ name and for your glory, Father. Amen.