June 2009

Let There Be Music

For me, music is the key to worship. I don’t assume that is true for everyone, but it has long been true for me. It is the key to worship for me because it unlocks and opens up not only my mind with its lyrics, but it unlocks and opens my heart with the beauty and power of the sounds. Melody, harmony, dissonance, all work together to open the deeper recesses of my soul, my spirit. When then the music is a hymn, in which we join together to sing, my body gets involved in the production of that music. This may be what most makes music such a central experience of worship for me, it involves all of me: my voice, my head, my heart, and my soul. All of me opens in the experience of worshipful music. Within that opening, I may chance to encounter the beauty, mercy, and holiness of God.

There is a great deal of emphasis on music as worship in the Scriptures. The Psalms have been sung by people of faith, in synagogues and churches, for perhaps 30 centuries. The Apostle Paul found courage and strength in times of trial by singing hymns (Acts 16:25). The author of Ephesians exhorts us to “be filled with the Spirit as you sing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:18-19). In the book of Genesis, creation is described poetically as unfolding at the direction of God’s spoken word. Two of my favorite writers of spiritual fiction are C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Both of them tell of creation as coming into being through music; God sang creation into being. That has a ring of truth in it for me, truth and beauty.

I grew up in churches that valued music and singing. I was in children’s choirs from an early age (with a hiatus for a couple of years to adjust to my voice change!). It was there I suppose that I first felt the presence of God: in surrendering my voice to the praise of God in the company of God’s family. I don’t think I could be a part of a church that didn’t place a high priority on music and singing. How blessed I am, how blessed we are, to have the gift of music that we have here in our church. I thank God for Helen Lindsey and for Justin Footman, and for all who sing in our choirs, and for all who bring the power of their musical instruments to our worship. I also thank all of you for the chorus of your voices as we stand together each Sunday to sing God’s praise. I am sure you know churches where the singing is weak or non-existent. I have been in some churches like that, and I did not leave feeling I had truly worshipped. The people of this church sing! Thank God!

June might be called Music Month in our church. On June 14th, our children and youth will lead worship and we will be blessed with the music of their choir and instruments. Then June 21st is Chancel Choir Sunday, and June 28th is Gospel Choir Sunday. Both services will be primarily experiences of the power of music, in a variety of styles, to lift us into the presence of God. This is a beautiful gift that we are given. It is given by members of our community who love God and love this church. They rehearse and prepare faithfully week after week, all year round, so that we may worship God with music in our hearts and on our lips. I hope you will find a way to express your gratitude and appreciation to them for this labor of love. I am deeply grateful!

So let there be MUSIC!