I remember a conversation I had during my early years as a pastor, with a smart-alecky young man who bragged about being an atheist. To prove his point, he dramatically spread his arm in one direction, saying, “Look, I don’t see God over there.” Then he swept his arm around from one side to the other, repeating a few times, “I don’t see him there, either.” I was amazed, because everywhere he pointed, I saw evidence of God, and I told him so. Neither of us persuaded the other that day, but I hope he’s found his way to some sort of belief in God.

What surprised me about that conversation was my assertion that I saw God everywhere, because that wasn’t what I learned from my early Christian training. I began with a narrow view of God’s concern for the world. My church taught me that he made an offer of salvation by sending Christ into the world. Those who accepted that offer were saved. Those who didn’t were lost, and God had no positive message for them. Through my personal journey, I had learned to hear God’s voice in many other ways, first through nature and science, then through the study of history and literature. By the time I met that young man, my senses were tuned to God’s presence, not just through the specific Gospel of salvation, but through everything around me. This extended to the messages of secular culture that my upbringing taught me should not be trusted. Like popular music.

The other evening, Judy and I were browsing the TV, when we stumbled on a video of the great blind Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli singing the American classic “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” * It was very moving, and she commented, “That’s the Gospel!” I agreed that God was giving hurting people — even “unbelievers” — reassurance and hope through that song. This made us curious, and we began playing other Andrea Bocelli video recordings. There were numerous operatic arias, because classical Italian opera was his original musical genre. But there were also a number of secular (i.e. not specifically Christian) songs of faith, such as “Hallelujah” and “The Prayer.” **

We became curious about Bocelli as a person.*** We discovered that blindness has dominated his life since severe congenital glaucoma destroyed his vision when he was twelve years old. He found great solace in his Catholic faith, and he has been a sincere believer ever since. He has sung for three Popes, the most recent being a performance of “The Lord’s Prayer” for Pope Francis II in 2015.**** To give people hope during the COVID shutdown, he did an inspirational production of “Amazing Grace,” including views of many major world capitols.***** It became clear to us that when he sings secular songs of faith, aspiration and overcoming adversity, the feeling is coming from his own personal faith.

With this background, we discovered one of his most recent recordings, done as a duet with his son Matteo. It’s called “Fall On Me.” ****** Some secular commentators who are uncomfortable with talk about a Higher Power, whether or not the name “God” is mentioned, try to make the song about a person’s longing to find a lover, but to me, the lyrics clearly point to the One who is LOVE beyond human love. Here are the last few lines:

I want to believe in a world we can’t see
Millions of particles passing through me,
And I know there’s a meaning. I feel it, I swear.
I can’t see the future, but I know that it’s there.
Fall on me with open arms; fall on me from where you are,
Fall on me with all your light, with all your light, with all your light.
I close my eyes, and I’m seeing you everywhere.
I step outside; it’s like I’m breathing you in the air. I can feel you’re there.
Fall on me with open arms; fall on me from where you are,
Fall on me with all your light, with all your light, with all your light.

– Pastor George Van Alstine