Summary: Sermon to handle the increasing division over style of music in worship (contemporary vs. traditional). We sing for God’s benefit and not our own. Yet God continues to inspire us with a new song and styles of worship.
In the last month or so I have heard some interesting comments. I’ve heard, “we don’t sing enough of the old hymns,” or “I don’t like the new music,” and I have also heard “we are singing too many hymns,” or “we sing songs too slow.” Interesting isn’t it? Whenever people are involved there are differing opinions on just about anything, music in worship included. What interests me the most though is not the comments themselves, but the meaning behind the comment. The meaning behind what is said is, “I wish we could have the kind of music that I like, or that I am familiar with.”
In fact just recently someone said to me, “I am not getting anything out of church service.” And I am pretty sure this person was referring to the music. The music wasn’t meeting their need. Perhaps you have felt that way before too. You have left the service thinking, “I just didn’t get anything out of that service.” Maybe it was the music, it was too fast, too slow, too new, too old, played with an organ, played with a guitar, perhaps the prayer time was too long, to short, to much silence, not enough silence, or the preaching was too longwinded, too disorganized. In any case something didn’t really do anything for you. There are two responses that jump out to me when I hear that comment: 1) you get out what you put in. Just like anything in life whether it is a computer, an education, work, exercise, you only get out what you put in. If you are not putting anything into the service, not singing, not giving, not opening yourself to God’s voice, you probably won’t get anything out of it. 2) Worship is not primarily about you, or your preferences. Just like the first line in Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” What we receive in a worship service is secondary, it’s frosting on the cake, the gravy on the mash potatoes. Worship, which includes the singing, is about God. Our first consideration should be, what is God getting out of this? If we are gauging the success of a church service by what we felt we received, we have missed the point of worship. Worship by its very nature is meant to be God focused and centered, it is what we offer to God, not out of what we receive.
As I was reflecting upon the comments that have been made to me and sorting this all out I came across a few Psalms. The Psalms were written primarily as songs for worship. We cam think of the book of Psalms as the song book of the Israelite people. The particular Psalms I came across were Psalm 33, 96 & 98. The one I am focusing on is Psalm 98 in which the anonymous psalm writer invites us to worship God, by singing. The purpose of singing, playing instruments, shouting, or making a noise is to praise God with our voice and instruments because of who God is and what God has done. In the context of Psalm 98 God is righteous, loving, and faithful, and he has demonstrated his righteousness, love, and faithfulness by bringing salvation to his people.
NIV Psalm 98:1 A psalm. Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 2 The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 3 He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.