Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Morning thanks--Martin Luther chapel music


People sometimes become their own voice recorders by doing a stump speech a thousand times. Success doesn’t help. Success just builds more self-trust. You use the same jokes because, after all, they worked last time. The minute you start talking, you board a train of thought, and you’re blind to the sleepers in your audience eyes.

Or so it was, I thought, with our tour guide. He started like my Toro—press the gas bulb three times, give the engine one quick pull, and we’re off. Once he got going on his spiel, he likely wouldn’t stop until the whole nine yards was shorn. You don’t change a thing without shutting the engine down.

I was even worried. You get that way with a tour. You want everybody to have a ball, and then fate delivers a monotone voice—or a quiet one--and the enemy, boredom, seems right outside the bus door. He wasn’t bad, but he seemed to me to be on auto-pilot. I was starting to get worried.

But Martin Luther College has a brand new chapel, a beautiful, bright place, where just walking in is a joy. Fortuitously, which is to say serendipitously, which is to say, I guess, fortunately, which is to say, I’d like to think, blessedly (a cosmic multiple choice question), the chapel’s ace organist just happened to be there to open the door for us.

Yes, he said, he’d love to play that new organ. Sure, he said. Yeah, you ought to hear it.

I don’t know sound science. Some people get Ph.D’s in acoustics, but I don’t really deal in echo times or whatever distinctions people make in determining what’s makes good sound management and what flat out goes. What I know is that when Dr. Mr. Organist started that beast up, the beauty didn’t shimmer, it boomed. For a moment, I swear I felt closer to heaven than I’ve been for a long, long time. The sound of that instrument, in that gorgeous space was quite literally out of this world.


He told us that the music sounds best when people sing. Would we like to? Sheesh. Was Luther a Lutheran?

How about “A Mighty Fortress” in the Lutheran chapel?

When it was over, we begged for another. And another, “Old Hundredth.”

On the last verse, I was just about shouting. I haven’t sung that belligerently for years. Occasionally, I think I even hit the right notes, but no matter. No one cared. The astounding power of that wondrous instrument was a glorious blessing even the sharpest tour hosts could not have planned.

In the afternoon, we toured a brewery and savored the place’s bounty in the cool of the alehouse downstairs. At night, a band of German singers belted out drinking songs, while a zany team of Narren (which, from the German, translates to” a troop of fools”) banned stoicism altogether and turned forty-some Dutch Calvinists into goofy jackrabbits.



No matter. The rich blessing of the day was music in that beautiful chapel, led by a monster organ to the peace that comes only with the assurance that, just for a moment, you’re being held in the divine palm of a hand as spacious as it is loving. For a moment there, I think even I could have walked on water.

What a joy. What a blessing. More than enough for morning thanks.

It’s probably altogether too easy for all of us to become voice recorders. Yesterday in the brand new chapel at Martin Luther College, for just a moment or two, some of us—well, me at least—were blessed with a new sound altogether, an almost heavenly voice.

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