I heard a sound this morning that got my attention. I had left the house in a slight hurry, concerned when I looked at the clock that time was a bit tight as I had to drive into York, park up, walk to the train station and then pick up my ticket – and I didn’t want to miss the train to London. Anyway, in the end I found myself standing on the platform, ticket in hand with 8 minutes to spare. That was good. But then I realised I’d forgotten to do something before I left. It was something I do on auto-pilot every day, but in the rush it was something I’d missed. I’d not brushed my teeth. So I went to the gents washroom on Platform 3, pulled out my washbag and gave those molars a good old scrub and freshened up my mouth for the day.
And it was then, as I was brushing my teeth that I heard it. The sound. I looked around to see where it was coming from. But at first I couldn’t work it out. It was not loud, but it seemed to fill the room. As far as I could tell, I was the only person in the washroom, so I don’t think was coming from anyone’s phone or MP3 player. It might have been coming through the roof speakers, but that didn’t seem right. I suspect the sound was coming from behind a locked door at the end of the room, which looked like a cleaning cupboard that I suppose could have been some kind of rest room or base for the janitor. From there, pervading through the air of the gents washroom on Platform 3, was the sound.
The sound got my attention. I could hear it above the noise of me brushing my teeth. It was the sound of singing. Of people singing. Of happy joyful singing. I listened more carefully and as I listened I began to recognise the song. It was a song of praise. A song of thanksgiving and adoration to Jesus Christ. It was a song I couldn’t name but I know I’d heard it a few days before somewhere. And here it was, quietly but confidently filling the air space of York station’s gents washroom on Platform 3.
A number of thoughts went through my mind. First, it was not the usual sound in the gents loo! Second, I liked it. I liked it a lot. It was a beautiful sound. A lovely, glorious sound. Third, it didn’t feel inappropriate or out of place. Someone who didn’t know what it was wouldn’t have been troubled by it. It wasn’t blasting out, and unless someone was concentrating they might not even have been able to make out the words. So it wasn’t offensive. But it was nevertheless very much there. The sound of praise in York station’s gents washroom on Platform 3.
I returned to the platform, to be ready for the approaching train, and as I did so I was reminded of a line in a song that I do remember. It’s the second verse of Brenton Brown’s Praise is Rising, where we sing: ‘Hear the sound of hearts returning to you’. When I sing that I sometimes ask myself ‘what does the sound of people coming back to God actually sound like?’ I often feel I get a glimpse of that sound when I’m at a prayer meeting and people break into small groups and begin to pray, and I step back and listen. And I hear this sound of lots of people talking to God. Calling out to him. Asking for his help. His blessing. His intervention. His forgiveness. His power. That prayer-sound is a beautiful sound. Beautiful to me, and beautiful I think to God. I think praise-sound is similar. It’s good. Right. Natural. Normal.
Psalm 66:8 calls all peoples of the earth to ‘let the sound of God’s praise be heard’. I suspect that, despite forces of secularism that would want to privatise that sound and hide it away in sound-proofed church buildings ‘for those who like that kind of thing’… in a transformed North of England, it will be increasingly normal to hear the sound of praise outside of church. In homes. In parks. In concert venues. Maybe even on buses and trains. Even in York station’s gents washroom on Platform 3.