Summary: Sermon 3 of 5 on Why we do the things we do. This message was delivered by Esther Hetrick, Worship Minister. History reminds us that musical styles have been changing all along. At one time every song was a new song, and we can find positive contributi
Why do we sing?
By Esther Hetrick
Meridian Christian Church
For early Christians, the book of Psalms was their songbook. And what a variety we find—joyful praise and adoration, confession and remorse, the pouring out of struggles and conflict, some quiet and reflective, others exuberant; some of a more personal nature, others reflecting the community of worshipers. Listen to a few of the Psalms that specifically mention singing…
· Psalm 5:11, “But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy…”
· Psalm 13:6, (David is questioning how long will he feel alone against his enemies… then he ends this psalm with these words) “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.”
· Psalm 33:1, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him.”
· Psalm 47:6, “Sing praises to God; sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to Him a psalm of praise.”
· Psalm 59:16 (Again David is asking God for deliverance from his enemies; after pouring out all his troubles, he says…) “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.”
· Psalm 95:1, “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”
· Psalm 96:1, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day.”
About a year and half ago, I was doing some research and sort of rediscovered Psalm 113. It is in a group of psalms called the “Hallel” psalms, and scholars believe these psalms were sung as worshipers came into Jerusalem to celebrate the annual feasts. I decided to take this Psalm and write a Jewish sounding tune to it… I named it the “Hallel Chorus”; the worship team is going to sing it for you now, and we invite you to join in with us…
Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
Both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
The name of the Lord is to be praised.
Throughout history people have sung. But they haven’t always agreed on what to sing. Today, churches sometimes have conflict over styles of music in worship, but this is not the first time the church has had difficulties.
As the church grew in the early centuries, they struggled to express their unity in Christ with one voice. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, there were struggles over the use of musical instruments. In the 4th century, the use of choirs caused problems—some groups organized choirs of men separate from the congregation to sing, while others responded with choirs of unmarried women and boys. In sorting through these dilemmas, some moved to reject music completely, preferring silence, and most excluded women from the congregation’s singing altogether.
Over the next few centuries, worshipers would become more and more removed from the acts of worship, eventually just observers watching the “professionals”, the trained clergy, sing and respond in worship.
Martin Luther, a leader in the Reformation in the 16th century, protested, “Let God speak directly to His people through the Scriptures, and let His people respond with grateful songs of praise.” And so new songs were raised in worship. Because the church had virtually lost its song, Luther borrowed tunes from secular German folk music, and helped create a controversial new type of song, the “hymn.” Other reformers, like John Calvin, also brought back congregational singing, but said that only scripture could be sung, without instruments, and in unison.
This came to be the style for most English speaking churches for the next 2 centuries. And perhaps still today we would be only singing Scripture texts, a cappella with no harmonies, except for a young man named Isaac Watts. Watts was the son of a preacher, and one day in his late teens he came home after church and complained to his father about the dull worship music used. His father, like any good parent, responded, “Don’t complain, unless you can do better.” And so young Isaac took up the challenge and began writing hymns of “human composure.” And we can be glad he did, for we got worship songs like “When I survey…” and “Joy to the World…”