It was about 9:30 Saturday night at the Sounds Like Love festival in the Twin Cities a couple of weekends ago. 500 high school youth had been rehearsing for over 6 ½ hours, singing songs, learning choreography, turning notes on a page into music for people’s hearts, and everyone was tired. Voices were straining, movements weren’t as crisp as they had been hours earlier, and it was getting hard to stay in focus and on task. There was a section of a Christmas song where different groups of youth were supposed to shine their mini-flashlights at different times, and it just wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. Finally, in a fit of directorial frustration, conductor John Jacobson cried out, “Twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!!!”
I heard this exhortation of John’s and immediately thought two things: first, that is SO going to be on my church's Sounds Like Love t-shirts next year. Second, and this is more of a sign that I’m just a theology nerd than anything else—I thought, what a great take on that passage from Matthew 5, verses 14-16, which reads: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” The last part of that we hear as part of the baptism service, a reminder that a life in Christ is not merely an adoption, but also a calling. Can’t you just imagine Jesus standing in front of us? Sometimes in encouragement, sometimes in frustration, but always in love, crying out “Let your light shine! Twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!”
I had the pleasure of accompanying 24 of our high school youth and 7 other adults to the Sounds Like Love music festival in the Twin Cities last weekend. Sounds Like Love is, in a nutshell, an annual gathering of about 500 high school students who sing and learn choreography for 7 Christian choral songs, and then put on two concerts. Really, on the surface, that’s it. Pretty simple. But I’d be selling the work of the Holy Spirit short if I left it there. Because so many kids arrive expecting that surface stuff, but along the way something surprising happens. The Spirit shows up. The Holy Spirit, who as we profess in the Small Catechism calls, enlightens, and sanctifies us, makes an appearance, transforming the weekend from just a fun time of singing into a call into relationship, a call into mission, a call into participation in the act of opening hearts and lives to the goodness of the gospel. If you were one of the youth who went and are reading this, know that in the midst of geckos and “moosh moosh moosh moosh,” in the middle of trying to dig your flashlight out of your pocket while still trying to sing AND do the choreography with one hand, in the middle of the games, the silliness, the hard work…through ALL of it, YOU were missionaries in the truest and best sense of the word. You were on a mission: twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!
During the weekend, the theme passage was Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” For the purposes of the weekend, it was boiled down into three thoughts: One Lord. One Body. One Hope. Our large group study time, guest speaker, and small group study all focused on what that means. What does it mean to proclaim one Lord who is over all and through all and in all? How does it transform the way we see those around us when we see them as fellow children of God, part of the same body, fellow travelers on the journey of life and faith? What IS the hope that we proclaim in Christ? Is it only for the next life? Or are we called as beacons of hope to shine the light of God’s love in the dark places in THIS life? Twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!
Sounds Like Love. All weekend, we heard those sounds. We heard it through the laughter of friends, old and new, from 6 states and 23 churches. We heard it through worship and our worship leaders. We heard it through the welcoming hospitality of over 100 host families. We heard it through the adult sponsors who gave a weekend to allow our youth an amazing experience. We heard it through families and friends who drove 7 hours to be a part of the weekend and be at the concerts on Sunday. And yes, we heard it through the music itself. God’s amazing, unconditional, life-giving love for all was proclaimed through beautiful, life-giving music. Sometimes upbeat, sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes tear-jerking, but always powerful and always the gospel. The message is this: you have a God who loves you so much that he didn’t allow death to have the final word. He didn’t allow sin to hold us captive. God loves you so much that he sent Jesus to die and defeat death through his resurrection FOR YOU. This isn’t because of anything you’ve done to deserve it. It’s through Christ alone. Through grace alone. And as the question asks, now that you know you don’t have to do anything, what are you going to do? Now that you’ve been freed from having to live for yourself, how are you going to live for others?
The answer? Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.
Or, in the words of that great theologian John Jacobson: Twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!