Summary: Ours is an artistic faith. We are exhorted to encourage one another with songs and hymns and spiritual songs-singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. It seems that worshipping God makes us all musicians.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The Spirituality of Musicianship-the Musicianship of Spirituality
We often think of Bach as a Christian musician-dedicating all his music to the service of the LORD. This is probably a fair evaluation. He was also a secular musician. You could hire him to play for your wedding. He was commissioned to write music for occasions and even wrote a few cantatas just for entertainment. In one secular cantata, the female lead was a bit addicted to coffee. Under the influence of too much caffeine she rejected the instructions of her father, telling him to “chill”. He tried to influence her to the virtue of decaffeination by offering to find her a husband. She relented, agreeing to reduce coffee intake if her father found her a lover-but each suitor was informed privately by the daughter he’d have to let her drink coffee if he wanted to marry her (as I write this I’m sipping on my second half liter of coffee for the morning. Please don’t judge me). This was written probably to be performed at the Collegium Musicum, a very sophisticated sounding music club that just happened to meet at Zimmermann’s Coffee House. At the beginning of Bach’s manuscript for the Coffee Cantata he wrote JJ- short for Jesu Juva, Jesus, Help! At the end of it he wrote GDS- short for Gloria Dei Soli, for the glory of God alone. For Bach, there was no division between secular and sacred. Every musical act was an expression of love and glory for God.
I wanted to do a set of devotional commentaries on Paul’s Prison Epistles, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, partly because each of them seems to take a view of every believer as a musician-like following Jesus makes you a singer by default. For me this reveals something profound about our faith-it is a musical faith. Ours is an artistic faith. We are exhorted to encourage one another with songs and hymns and spiritual songs-singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. We are to know and sing songs for each other. Have you ever sung a song for a friend or a lover? Have you ever been sung to? It’s powerful. It can be profound and beautiful. Depending on your voice it may not always be pretty-but can always be profound. Music taps into almost all parts of the brain and limbic system. Music, like all art, can be, obviously, used for diabolical purposes. Consider the chilling opening of the film Merry Christmas
”To rid the map of every trace
Of Germany and of the Hun
We must exterminate that race
We must not leave a single one
Heed not their children’s cries
Best slay all now, the women, too
Or else someday again they’ll rise
Which if they’re dead, they cannot do.”
(See also this YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C24ww7GoFLA)
But the power for evil is more than compensated by music’s tremendous power for good. We can teach and encourage and inspire each other. And the inspiration doesn’t stop with building up each other for service to the LORD. We are to make new music, making up new songs to God.
I think Paul means this literally. Try it. Sing. Sing a new song to the LORD. Be thankful. Let peace take over your heart. To quote the song from the Carpenters in the early 70’s, “sing, sing a song, sing out loud, sing out strong . . . don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing. Sing a song.”
God is not going to be a critic, evaluating your musicality. Instead He is the loving Father, loving the voice of his child.
Prayer for Today (to be sung-Go ahead! Make up a tune.)
Father, I adore you.
I am yours. You are mine. Thanks for all the ways you’ve blessed my life.
Thanks for all the goodness you’ve poured on me
Like cool water from a desert stream
You wash over me with your goodness.
Like the warmth of the sun in the snowy frost, your love warms my heart.
Like the Lover calling his Beloved, you invite me, with patience you wait for me, with tenderness you teach me, with your spirit you fill me.
I am at peace.