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The first Christians loved to sing. I take it from Paul, whose letters are our first documents of early Christianity, written just a few decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, written somewhere between 50 and 60 A.D., there is this wonderful hymn embedded in the text:
So that at the name of Jesus everyone
in heaven, on earth,
and under the earth might bow
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)
Like some early Christian, I started humming some of those words when I happened to see the old shirt my son Timothy used to wear. There it is, the name of Jesus emblazoned right in front. The old hymn, inspired by Philippians, “At the name of Jesus...” crept into my head. And stayed there.
I was humming “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow” all day long: on my commute to work, as I logged on to the computer, as I sat in a meeting, as I worked on a story, the words filling me up and filling my soul. It was like praying all day long. I could picture a group of Christians sitting in a Roman home, singing, and I envisioned Paul writing that letter to the Philippians, singing to himself.
When a song gets stuck in your head like that, the Germans call it an Ohrwurm, or earworm. Usually that’s a good thing, especially if it’s a good song, one that fills your spirit and makes you smile. It’s a way to stay in prayer when you’re doing other things. But how to get the song out of there? How to get rid of an earworm?
Simple enough. Put in another song. Just make sure it’s equally catchy and inspiring. Sure enough, when “At the name of Jesus...” was wearing out its welcome in my ear, I clicked on a link my colleague Brett Leveridge sent to a song written by his nephew, Rob Leveridge. And all at once I was humming “I am starting to see/Life is bigger than me/A child of the Holy...” Rob is a pastor, and he sure must be a good one with songs like “Let It Live.”
“I hope you don’t give away that T-shirt,” I said to my son. “It makes me think of a song.” Of all lyrics to put in your head, Jesus is a good thing to sing about. The early Christians knew that. So does my new friend Rob Leveridge.