Rediscovering the Greatest Hits

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Years ago, in the days before iTunes and Spotify, we had these things called CDs.  Sure, there are other modes of music delivery in my past.  I have childhood memories of 8-tracks, I bought cassettes and made mix tapes in my teens, and I still occasionally browse through the albums at Lagniappe Records in Lafayette to add to vinyl collection.  But in my early adulthood, CDs dominated the market, and thanks to the Columbia House CD Club (the first 12 CDs for only a penny!), my collection was vast.

After mobile music went digital, most of my CD collection eventually went to Goodwill.  There were, though, a few I couldn’t part with–some choice titles that are part of my life’s soundtrack.  I rediscovered the treasured few this week in my move into a new parsonage.

While there are a few favorites missing, these are some of the essentials, some of the greatest hits of my CD-era taste in music:

Rediscovering the greatest hits is important spiritual work.  Reminding ourselves of what is essential can recenter our purpose and reorient our direction.

We tend to fill our ears with one-hit wonders that entertain for a bit but don’t have much staying power.  It’s easy to get lured by the catchy hooks of manufactured pop tunes in high rotation.  Some of those are pure sing-along fun, and some are flimsy repeats of mind-numbing formulas, not worthy of going in the box of greatest hits.

Reminding ourselves of the greatest hits brings us back to the music that formed us in the first place–the music that breathed life in the soul and set us on a journey toward some larger meaning and purpose.

Sure, some new discoveries can get added to the greatest-hits collection along the way.  I’m not suggesting that we should ever freeze our tastes in the past.  What I am suggesting, though, is that connecting with the essentials provides a certain grounding.

I’m reminded of the importance of grounding in the greatest hits when I hear politicians quoting Scripture to justify a questionable policy or whip up a mob.  I’m reminded of the importance of grounding in the greatest hits when I hear religious people using faith to harm and exclude.  And confessionally speaking, I’m reminded of the importance of the greatest hits when I suspect myself of performing theological acrobatics in order to justify my own preconceived notions and comfortable opinions.

The greatest hits most import to me are the teachings of Christ.  Imagine what the world might be like if followers of Christ simply rediscovered the essential Jesus–rediscovered those words and acts that prioritize compassion over exclusion, generosity over greed, and allegiance to God’s reign of grace and love over commitments to any other human institution or ideology.

What might I be reminded of, for instance, if I rediscovered the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and really listened to the music as if for the first time? How might the lyrics, the beat, and the melody reorient my thoughts, words, and actions? Would those essentials draw attention to the frivolous tunes I’ve been mindlessly consuming and ground me in the music that matters?  I think that might recenter my purpose and reorient my direction.  What do you think?

So today I might queue up some of the greatest hits.  My guess is that I’ll still be able to sing along.  And maybe I’ll even be reminded of the essentials that made me who I am or, at least, who I hope to be.  What about you?

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