Living in Nashville offers its own unique experiences. Yesterday I preached at Edgehill United Methodist Church, the local church we attend, which is only a couple of blocks from Music Row. I had one of those uniquely Nashville experiences. (Parenthetically, I’ve put the manuscript here as someone asked me for a copy.)
In the sermon, I refer to the Hank Williams classic, “I Saw the Light.” The words connect well with the interplay between light and darkness in the Bible, an interplay that leads in many different directions.
The conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus as reported in the third chapter of the Gospel of John, is one more illustration of this intriguing interplay. The commentary in the Interpreter’s Bible enlarges on this and was helpful.
After worship, a friend came to me and said, matter-of-factly, “I talked with Sarah Cannon about that song and she told me she sat with Hank in the back of a car one night riding to an appearance and asked him if he had seen the light. He said he hadn’t, but wouldn’t it be wonderful?” And, my friend continued, “She said in a wistful voice, ‘I don’t know if he ever saw the light.'”
For those who don’t know, Sarah Cannon created the country comedy character known on-stage as Minnie Pearl. She was a friend and confidant to many country music stars. She achieved fame in the late 1940’s and remained a staple of the Grand Ol’ Opry for decades. She died in 1996.
Where else but Nashville can you talk after church with someone who had a conversation with Minnie Pearl who, in turn, tells about a personal moment with Hank Williams, and not be name-dropping? It was the just telling of a fond remembrance.
I then spoke with another person in the congregation who is connected to the music and he reflected upon the way songs such as “I Saw the Light” reveal the personal struggles the musicians are going through. Hank Williams wrote it in 1948 when the music was even more autobiographical than it is now.
It was a choice experience to have these two brief conversations after worship about music and how we react to it. This kind of music points us to ourselves and our experiences of life. It doesn’t stand for something else, or represent anything else, as Michael Bugeja writes. It simply is. And, if it’s true that Hank didn’t see the light, we’re saddened because we all want to see the light, and I think we care if others see it too, whatever the light means to each of us individually.
The music somehow gets to our common ground and speaks to us in a deep way that becomes both personal and unifying.
Just a passing thought about living and worshipping in Nashville two blocks off Music Row.