I started taking piano lessons in the 2nd grade, but really just “did” the lessons, since I usually only practiced about an hour or two before said lesson each week. Regardless, I still remember the first “lesson” when sitting beside my piano teacher: finding middle C, that white key in the middle of them all. Honestly, I remember, just as much, being intimidated by the other 87 black-and-white keys. How could I possibly play something when I have to find the right key to press down amidst all 88 of them? How in the world can I play multiples at a time, not to mention sharps and flats and sometimes double-sharps or flats (!?!), and then the pedals down below, too? That anxiety carried over to a fair share of recitals, to say the least, even though I never got to a song that included all 88 keys anyway.

Those years of piano lessons that I never took full advantage of as I should have, continues to shape my level of respect for pianists in congregational and concert (and anywhere else, for that matter) settings. One of those years involved following a student about my age, but he was one of those students who actually practiced more than just an hour or two a week; one of those students who was not only proficient, but seemingly a natural-born talent, to the point that he wasn’t just practicing on the piano anymore; he made it to the big-kid instrument: the organ. I’m not sure there was any amount of hours that I could put in to get me to the point of having such hand-eye and foot coordination to play all the note combinations above AND below(!).

I have a feeling that experience is part of the reason why I appreciate hearing, “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds” every Easter, because it sounds like a hymn that uses all the notes. Now, more than likely, the organist doesn’t literally play every note on all the manuals above and pedals below at least once throughout the hymn, but it certainly has the gusto to make it seem like all the notes are joining forces to let “the vault of heaven resound,” yet again. But it isn’t just about the musical keys. It’s about all our notes being unleashed that Easter Sunday: all the notes of fear and anxiety and frustration being burst wide open with a death-defying force. And yes, all our notes of joy and amazement and wonder, too. All of it combining to create not just the sound of organ pipes rattling, but the depths of our soul resounding with a grace-filled new life that cannot quite be put into words.

Granted, the text written by Paul Z. Strodach (1876-1947), gets pretty close, especially the second verse:

Eternal is the gift he brings,
therefore our heart with rapture sings:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Now still he comes to give us life
and by his presence stills all strife.
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

“Still he comes to give us life,” no matter the notes we cling to during our more trying days, no matter the anxiety we have in using other notes in our personal repertoire, no matter our talent level or sophistication as a life-long disciple/student of our Risen Lord. So, may the vault not only of heaven, but the vault of our own heart, resound with a joy that can shatter sin and death forevermore. Amen (so let it be)!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad

Image: from Unsplash/Pisit Heng

“Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds” from Gethsemane Lutheran Church (Hopkins MN) April 14, 2015