Paul Jones, who taught theology at a seminary in Kansas City, has a great appreciation for jazz. At one time, he and a colleague spent a good deal of time scouting-out new jazz players in that town which has such a fine jazz tradition.
After hearing [a new musician play] several sets, one of them would ask, “Do they know?” We never defined what “know” meant. We just knew. Jazz played well emerges from the soul of one who has tasted the tragic. Our litmus test was how the new person played “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” Sadness is primal. How we respond—that is the difference.
Jones added that, when people have come to him asking for his help in learning how to pray, he assumes that this request is code for help me find a way to “make it through the night.” (Facets of Faith. Boston: Cowley, p. 127).
Bono, lead singer of U-2, says that “Help Me Make it Through the Night” is his second-favorite song and “Amazing Grace is his favorite” (See Anne Lamott, Plan B. Riverhead Books, 2005, p. 29). The question is, how do we move from “Help Me Make It Through the Night” to “Amazing Grace”? From a worn-out, dull, flat, sad, lifeless soul and song to a soul and song that are refreshed and renewed, surge with vitality, flow with energy, and cascade with joy? Where can we find a “new song”?
New songs depend on this good news: God has radically changed the world through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, the world is being rescued, reclaimed, restored, renewed, reordered, and redeemed. When we experience God’s presence in the world as a dying-rising Savior, who brings healing, life, and hope out of brokenness, death, and despair, then new songs arise from deep within us.