As I surveyed the landscape of what RUSH songs would make great studies, somehow “Closer to the Heart” from Farewell to Kings missed my radar. It wasn’t until I watched this sermon from John Van Sloten @ New Hope that it jumped out and bit me.
This song contains an interesting combination of hope in the future and it’s relationship to present vocation; or what you do in terms of work and/or identity. Closer to the Heart makes a big deal about two things: 1) What you do can make huge change, and so 2) What you choose to do makes a big difference in the scheme of things. It’s a loud proclamation that has been made before, but with less drum fills.
There’s a beautiful philosophical angle as well: The heart is a destination for a world where things are set right. The Hebrew understanding of “heart” in Scripture is more a sense of whole being. The heart is not a detached organ, like we see it, but representative of the whole person. To be closer to the heart, is in fact to be closer to being.
Jesus was asked one day, “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?” Jesus answered, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
Jesus makes it clear that the whole person has to be involved in loving God and neighbor: Closer To The Heart?
The man continues, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”
I think Jesus was astonished at this level of understanding. He wasn’t the usual run of the mill religious bonehead. Jesus said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom. [Mk 12:32-34].”
In Scripture, to be Closer To The Heart is to “mold a new reality.”
Sometimes we think about our jobs, our work, our identities and take them for granted, forgetting what a holy calling we have been calling into. I’m not talking about religious professionals. All people who are called into work perform a holy task. Frederick Buechner described it like this: “Vocation (work) is where your greatest passion and the world’s greatest needs meet.”
When God spoke to Adam, he didn’t tell him to play video games in his mom’s basement, he told him to work: to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue and to name. This was most certainly “molding a new reality” and “forging [his] creativity.” During Super Bowl 47, Dodge ran this astounding commercial all about the Farmer (“sower”).
I wish that each job had a video like this, but as the grandson of a farmer, I really appreciate this one. I saw my grandfather as a Titan. He smelled like farm, looked like farm and what I remember is strength and integrity. CLoser To The Heart, though is a musical version in a way. It talks about more types of people: the men who hold high places, the blacksmith, the artist, philosophers, ploughmen and captains. With their steampunk voice, RUSH upholds the dignity of several vocations and connects them to a better future, a utopian hope.
Closer To The Heart focuses on the “holy” of normal things, as does much of Peart’s lyrics. It’s important that we acknowledge that all reality is God’s reality, and it’s by His calling that we mold a new one. WElizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:
“Earth’s crammed with Heaven
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes —
The rest sit round it and pluck black berries.”
Closer To The Heart asks us to stop and ask if we’ve seen a “bush afire with God” in our neighbor: the men who hold high places, the blacksmith, the artist, philosophers, ploughmen and captains.
In the final stanza, there’s a restatement of God’s call on Adam’s work.
God’s call on his people
Christ’s call on his church
Jesus’ promise to you:
I have given you this life. Commit to it, take responsibility for it, work at it. Accept it in all of its glory and sorrow, ease and difficulty. It’s only in experiencing the gift of “You,” heart, soul, mind and strength, in its fullness that you will get where you are going.
You can be the Captain
I will draw the Chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the Heart