Saturday, July 28, 2012

Why We Sing 

Some thoughts from this Sunday's bulletin:

We come to church in order to praise God and to learn about who He is.  When Jesus commissioned His church, He said that their work was to "make disciples", which means teaching. 

People learn a lot of different ways, and church done right provides a lot of different ways to learn.  There's reading, there's listening to sermons, there's reciting creeds and Scriptures, there's discussion about the meaning of things.  The Sacraments provide a lesson to our sight, taste and touch about the nature of God's grace to us.  Active, passive, aural, even visual and tactile learning are all present. 

Any teacher of children will tell you that singing is one of the best ways to teach.  When people learn something in a song it often sticks with them in a way that nothing else does.  People remember songs their whole lives.  I have seen Alzheimer's patients that can't recognize their own children, but remember hymns they learned when they were children themselves.

Paul says the same thing in Colossians 3:16- "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

Songs in worship therefore need to have content, and good content.  The Psalms are a great example of what worship music should be like.  They are artistically beautiful, doctrinally rich and have some repetition but not a great deal.  Music should be simple enough that the congregation can all participate in singing.  Novelty should take a back seat; songs should be sung often enough that they can be learned.

This Sunday we sing "O For a Thousand Tongues", a hymn of praise to God.  The writer expresses his great joy at knowing God, knowing that one tongue alone is not nearly enough to properly express the magnitude of God's worth.  So he asks for God's assistance to give him strength to praise God in a way worthy of His great name.  He focuses on all the things God has done and is doing for him, especially through the saving work of Jesus Christ.

We also sing "God is our Refuge and our Strength", from Psalm 46.  That hymn concentrates on God's might and preserving power.  The psalm uses the image of a river that brings life and prosperity to a city; the life-bringing Spirit of God is often described in Scriptures as a river, a river that brings life.  Jesus said that all who come to Him would receive living waters, that all who drank of that water would never again thirst.  God's power is such that all His enemies will be cast down and God's people will dwell in peace and prosperity.

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