There is a powerful argument for the existence of God to be found in music. People appeal to natural selection to explain all kinds of human traits that appear to be beneficial to survival; their theory, however, begins to implode when it comes to explaining aesthetics. How does the theory of natural selection account for the idea of “beauty” ? Where philosophers agonize to explain such things, believers recognize them as the fingerprints of a beautiful Creator.
That’s why music is a powerful complement to the work of preaching the gospel. Christians have been singing their faith since the beginning of the church, when Jesus would lead His disciples in a hymn. Two thousand years later, the 61st General Conference (GC) Session continues to feature the miracle of music, God’s universal language, to inspire the hearts of delegates and attendees.
Monday offered one of the most powerful testimonies of God’s beauty that a GC Session has ever witnessed. Attendees caught a stunning glimpse of God during the afternoon concert when the program began with the Advent Euphoric Chorale (from the Southern Asia-Pacific Division) singing “Every Time I Feel the Spirit” in a clever Zoom-style presentation. Individual singers recorded their parts on their own cameras and then assembled the recordings into a virtual choir that Internet choral pioneer Eric Whitacre would have been proud of. The chorale’s contribution was a delightful reminder that the work of the church has persisted (even flourished!) through the ingenuity of God’s people throughout the global pandemic.
But as moving as the first number was, it seems that God was just getting warmed up. The second number — “The Lord’s Prayer,” sung by baritone Dae-bum Lee of Korea — is viewed by many as a bona fide miracle, the kind you might expect to read about in the book of Acts. Dae-bum and his wife, So-yeon Lee, are not in St. Louis enjoying the Session; instead, the performance was prerecorded and shared on the big screen.
And what a performance it was.
Dae-bum, an opera singer, had been working in Europe, where his promising career was taking off. “But as success was right in front of us,” So-yeon explains, “COVID-19 became a pandemic.” Dae-bum was working in Milan, and Italy was one of the hardest-hit nations when the plague began to spread across the globe. So-yeon and their 3-year-old son had little choice but to return to Korea, leaving Dae-bum behind.
After five months of separation from his family, Dae-bum unexpectedly had a stroke. His wife tried to return to Italy immediately, but the pandemic — and the fact that she was seventh months pregnant — made this very difficult. Much prayer opened the right doors, however, and she was soon at her husband’s side in an intensive care unit.
“My husband barely recognized me due to right hemiplegia, aphasia, a swallowing disorder, and cognitive loss,” she relates. She waited for signs of improvement—for 50 days. Her persistent prayers were answered; Dae-bum gradually improved, and the family was able to return to Korea, where their daughter was safely born.
Dae-bum was somewhat mobile, but it seemed his aspirations as a musician had been shattered. He could not speak, let alone sing.
That’s when it happened: “One day,” So-yeon recounts, “his lips moved, and melody began to flow. Even though he could not speak, God made him to praise. We prayed to God, dreaming of praising [Him] at the GC Session again. He could participate virtually.”
Their troubles were far from over, though. Shortly after discovering that he could still sing, Dae-bum suffered a seizure, and the dream of participating in the Session once again evaporated. So-yeon said, “My husband and I were encouraged by the notice of the GC Committee that he could participate virtually.”
Dae-bum recorded his stunning rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” in a studio, accompanied by piano, violin, and cello. To watch it, you’d never know what he’d been through; his tragic impairment was barely discernible. The warmth of his baritone voice, fueled by a love for Christ, washed over the assembly. Where spoken language failed this servant of God, music, God’s miracle language, suddenly took over — a potent reminder that God does not abandon us when the world throws its worst our way.
Music is always a miracle, a profound gift from God that cannot really be explained apart from Him. We are told that even Christ’s voice was melodious (Gospel Workers 1892, p. 151). And sometimes it’s the tears in your eyes (the “feels,” as some people describe them) that remind you that God is very real and very present.
On Monday, the Session heard Him loud and clear.