Over a year ago my son bought about 300 old record albums for $50 on Craigslist. Being the parent in the equation, I asked the parental question, “What are you going to do with them?” After all, my son didn’t own a turntable. But that wasn’t important, he was so happy that he’d gotten these albums for less than 20 cents each that nothing else mattered. A year later, most of the albums are collecting dust in his basement. Yet inspiration did hit him that year as the holidays approached, and my son realized he didn’t need to do any Christmas shopping. He wrapped up some of the old albums and took care of everyone on his list.
The cornier the album the better. He gave his aunt Englebert Humperdinck. He gave his uncle Jim Nabors. He gave his cousin Jimmy Swaggert. (Who knew Jimmy played the piano?) And he gave my dad, his grandfather, an album of gospel music by the “Old Pea Picker,” Tennessee Ernie Ford.
My dad loves Tennessee Ernie Ford. When my dad unwrapped the album, he walked across the room to his record player and put it on. Yes, my dad has a record player, the same one he’s had since the Carter Administration. He has no MP3 player (he doesn’t know what an MP3 is) or even a CD player, but there is a combo turntable / cassette player in the family room, waiting, I suppose, for just such an occasion as this.
Tennessee Ernie started to sing about Jesus in that beautiful, deep bass voice and within a few seconds my dad’s eyes had filled with tears. Suddenly, my son’s joke was no joke, and the gift of his goofy albums had been transformed into something wonderful my son never imagined.
What was Tennessee Ernie singing? Among the songs was Peace in the Valley, written by Tommy Dorsey in 1937. You can hear Tennessee Ernie sing it by clicking here. Take a minute. It’s worth it.
Where did Tommy Dorsey get those lyrics? They’re right out of the pages of the Bible, and much of the imagery is from the Book of Isaiah. Some of it sounds like Isaiah 65:17-25, where Isaiah shares a vision of what the new heaven and new earth are going to be like. It’s a vision captured in two simple words: justice and peace. Children won’t die, all people will live to the fullness of their years, people will enjoy the fruit of their labors, all the creatures of the world will dwell together in harmony and we will be so intimate with God he will say, “Before they call I will answer, while they are still speaking I will hear.”
Yesterday, of course, was Easter, and among the things that Jesus’ resurrection means is that Isaiah’s vision of peace and justice isn’t just a dream but will one day be reality. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15 that Jesus is the first-fruits of the resurrection, meaning there are more resurrections to come. The last enemy to be destroyed, Paul says in that glorious passage, is death.
I’m not trying to deny reality or sell a bunch of pie in the sky. I only want to say that Easter is a season for us to take a deep breath and realize that much better days are coming.
There the bear will be gentle,
and the wolf will be tame,
and the lion will lay down by the lamb.
And the beast from the wild
will be led by a child,
and I’ll be changed from the creature I am.
There will be peace in the valley for me someday,
there will be peace in the valley for me, I pray.
No more sorrow and sadness, or trouble will be,
There will be peace in the valley for me.