Summary: It’s true that we have our various musical idioms. The way churches sing here has very little resemblance of the way a church sings in Africa or Brazil. And we have little idea how the first Christians expressed their melodies. What matters is that we
Let Heaven and Nature Sing
I heard of a farmer who was making his regular visit to the big city to stock up on supplies. Only this time, for one reason or another, necessity kept the farmer in town over the weekend. So he decided to find a church for his Sunday worship.
Back home this farmer attended a little wood frame church were the preaching was energetic and the songs were of the old-time gospel variety. But on this weekend trip, the farmer decided it was time to gain a bit more experience of the religious world. So on Sunday morning he walking into a stately looking church, with massive columns and a ceiling higher than any grain silo he’s ever seen. This he concluded, was where they had “high church” meetings, as he’d heard them called. The farmer found a seat and worship the best he knew how, even though it seemed life he was in the “advanced” course and he was used to the “beginner” level.
When he arrived home at the farm, he started to give his wife an account of his visit to the “advanced” worship service. She listened with fascination; it was as if her husband had been to the Land of Oz. “The sing’ in, she demanded. What was the sing’ in like?”
“Anthems,” her husband replied. “We sang us some anthems.”:
“And what, pray tell, is an anthem?”
The farmer stroked his heard pensively. Well, he replied slowly, “I can’t rightly describe them, but it’s a little like this. If I was to say to you Bessie Mae, it’s time to feed the pigs, that would not be an anthem. No ma’am. But if I was to put it to you, Bessie, Bessie, Bessie Mae, Bessie Mae, it’s time; Bessie Mae, it’s time to feed, it’s time, it’s time, it’s time to feed the pigs, Amen! – well now, as I understand it, that’s what you call an anthem.
It’s true that we have our various musical idioms. The way churches sing here has very little resemblance of the way a church sings in Africa or Brazil. And we have little idea how the first Christians expressed their melodies. What matters is that we are a singing people, nearly everywhere. If our faith is valid, as our hearts tell us it is, then we of all people can sing – regardless of our ability to carry a tune. John Wesley, once said, “Beware of singing as if you were half dead or half asleep. Lift up your voices with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, or more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sang the songs of Satan.
Yet I know many people who don’t like to sing. I can see them from the pulpit, barely moving their lips as if they’re afraid the hymn might escape captivity. Or they shift form one foot to the other, watching everyone else and checking their watches occasionally. If I were to embarrass my non-singing friend by asking him about it, I can anticipate his reply: “Oh, pastor, you haven’t heard how poorly I sing. The Bible says ‘make a joyful noise,’ and I have the ‘noise’ part covered – by my singing sounds like and injured moose!”
The problem with that reasoning is that my friend isn’t singing for me. He isn’t singing for the people surrounding him in the pews. He sings for the pleasure of God, who accepts gifts based on the heart, not the craftsmanship. If you have a range of one note, that note is all the more beautiful in the ears of the Lord, if it’s offered up to Him. The joyfulness of the joyful noise isn’t determined by the social evaluation of your instrument, but by the divine evaluation of your heart.
True worship puts the songs within you and leaves it in place throughout the week. It may find full voice in the church, but the melody lingers on as you move through the hours of the workday, as you spend tie with your family, as you thank the Lord for another safe and fruitful day and drift off to sleep. It’s a shame that so few families still sing together. There was a time when ‘hymn sings’ were important features of family reunions. Music helped tie families together, and the content of the music was the greatness of God.
1 Corinthians 14:15b says, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” When we immerse our hearts and minds in the music of worship, life changes radically. Who go about our business with a television commercial jingle on our minds when we can be bathing our minds with the Word itself, in musical form? Why face the trials of business with anything but songs of our awesome God on your tongue?