Song of the Spirit

c0eeb9d4c8a6a37e075d7e261182b8ffOne of the most familiar American tunes is “Taps.” (We named it in just 3 notes and without any hints on Tuesday Morning!)

We’ve heard it played countless times as a bugle call. But have we ever heard the words? (Only 1 person among our group could sing a few on Tuesday Morning.)

Here’s the first verse:

Day is done. Gone the sun, from the lake,  from the hill, from the sky. All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.

Not only are the words unfamiliar, but the story behind the song is also unknown to most of us. This is what I discovered:

During the height of the Civil War, July 1862, Union Army General Daniel Butterfield evacuated with his company after one of the most savage and pivotal battles if the campaign. Recovering from wounds and discouragement, July heat and dysentery, General Butterfield decided to change the military sounding call that customarily ended the day to something more fitting their needs. So, in the wake of defeat, suffering himself I’m sure, this army general set to work on a new song. He adapted another military tune, slowed it down and took out a difficult note.

The song was originally a bugle call at the end of each day, to signal lights out and time for rest – that’s what the word “taps” means.

Later that year, a Captain Tidball used “Taps” to honor a well-respected soldier who was killed during a battle in the woods. Fearing that firing three canon shots would be unsafe (considering how close they were to the enemy), “Taps”” was played.

“Taps” formally became a mandatory part of Army funeral ceremonies in 1891, perhaps in part because General Butterfield, now retired, oversaw the funeral of General William Sherman where it was played.

Today “Taps” is played every day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and every night at the Arlington National Cemetery, both to “call an end to the day [and] as a tribute to those that gave the ‘last full measure of devotion.'”

This replacement tune, born of battle and struggle, is played to honor American servicemen and women around the globe. More than almost any other tune, it is recognized as being distinctly American.

This story speaks to me about a life of faith . . .

Our Faith – our belief in Jesus as King and Lord of our lives – gives us a recognizable tune in our hearts. The Spirit of God plays this tune … to settle us down, to set our focus, to give us our identity IN CHRIST.

It’s our well-known “Taps.”

Just as we could appreciate more about this song when we learned where its origin, we can appreciate our story of redemption when we dig deeper into God’s Word:

  • The story of redemption begins in Genesis  and continues through the prophets, kings & poets …
  • to Jesus, the perfect Lamb who was slain as a sacrifice for the sins of the world …
  • to the expression and guidelines of redeemed living in the early church.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says,

“… when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.”

That’s like adding the lyrics to a tune to give it life and meaning. God is writing lyrics of Truth into our lives in moments that stir us, and we offer that back to Him as our life song.

I wonder today . . . how clearly do you hear and understand the song of the Spirit in your life?

  • Do you hear it when you’re sitting in church?
  • Do you hear it with your family during the week?
  • Does is resound when you turn on the TV or computer to catch the latest sound bite on the election? Does is show in how you react on social media?
  • Is it there in the grocery line … when you always get stuck behind the person with a stack of coupons?

If the song of the Spirit, born of battle and struggle, is the most recognizable tune of being a Christian, when you open your mouth what does the world hear?

I invite you to reflect on that question as you listen to “Taps” with the lyrics only (click on link below). The words remind us of the truth of the gospel that “God is nigh”: in Jesus, He is here with us, His Spirit is counseling us, and through Him, we represent the Kingdom of Christ.

Mel Carter: Taps


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