IVP - Strangely Dim - March Music Madness: To Life

March 17, 2011

March Music Madness: To Life

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. That's what they always tell us. Along the way March carries us through Lent and welcomes us into spring and makes us wish we were Irish. So, yeah, there's a lot going on in March--especially this week.

This week I attended the funeral of my sister-in-law's mother. My mom broke briefly from the procession to let me know that my sister-in-law and my brother weren't there--they were at the hospital. My sister-in-law had gone into labor that morning. We said goodbye to her mother and hello to her daughter on the same day.

During the funeral we sang "Morning Has Broken," a song made popular in the early 1970s by folk singer Cat Stevens but originally published in 1931, according to Wikipedia, as a hymn for each day. It borrowed its tune from a traditional Gaelic song, "Bunessan," which was also used for the Christmas carol "Child in the Manger, Infant of Mary." The text of "Morning Has Broken" was likewise repurposed, modified by its author, Eleanor Farjeon, for the hymn "A Morning Song (For the First Day of Spring)." So it's appropriate for spring, for St. Patrick's Day--for any day, really. But a funeral?

When I was a kid, we often sang "Morning Has Broken" as part of our Sunday mass. I never thought of it as a death song. Maybe a spring song, perhaps a birth song, possibly even a resurrection song. But I don't associate beauty or hope or even Ireland--all of which I associate with "Morning Has Broken"--with death.

After this week, though, I'm starting to think that's because sometimes I lack vision--or, maybe more to the point, sometimes I lack faith.

During mass we recalled Betty's baptism and anticipated its fulfillment. We remembered that in dying, Jesus destroyed our death and in rising he restored our life. We recalled Jesus' cross and resurrection, and professed our faith that he will come again in glory, ushering in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. We reflected on the fact that Betty, like each of us, was a bearer of the divine image, sprung from the word of God and inspired by the breath of God. And we sang "Morning Has Broken" as much as a reminder to ourselves as an acknowledgment of the objective truth that each day we are given, from the first day of all creation to the last day of our life, is a gift to be embraced and celebrated as "God's recreation of the new day."

So, yeah, maybe "Morning Has Broken" is a funeral song, if only we have ears to hear. If nothing else, it's a song I wouldn't mind having in my head as I pass from this life to the next. It's a paean to life, of which God is the author and finisher; and it is right, by means of it, to give him thanks and praise.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at March 17, 2011 12:59 PM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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