“And they say you never sing.” Toby Mac (“Hey Devil”)
“Some experiences are beyond words; they call forth lyrics instead. Singing marks spiritual passages–both the formal ones of birth, marriage, and death, and the informal ones of commitment, doubt, and renewal. …In many ways Christians sing faith. Musicians Don and Emily Saliers think of music as ‘soul practice,’ because music awakens our souls to matters beyond the ordinary. At moments of change in Christian history, music often opens the path that cannot be articulated, for poetry and song take us to places that prose cannot. ‘Music is not simply an ornament of something already understood in words,’ writes the Salierses. ‘Rather, ordered sound mediates the world to our senses and animates–literally, ensouls–those who enter it deeply.’ …Martin Luther wrote hymns for congregations to sing in their own languages—a daring innovation. Although medieval people participated in the Mass, vernacular singing enabled people to experience the church’s liturgies in powerful new ways. Luther loved music. He played several instruments and once commented, ‘Next to the word of God, music deserves the highest praise.’ …Luther thought music aided people in memorizing scripture, thus deepening their understanding of the written word. Luther advised clergy to sing Bible readings during Sunday worship and encouraged congregants to sing during Holy Communion. …Beyond Germany, followers of the French reformer John Calvin … busily translated the psalms into metrical verse to be sung in unison during services. Calvin himself extolled music’s power to ‘delight,’ recognizing its ‘almost incredible power to sway hearts in one sense or another.’ And English reformers created entire sung services of biblical texts, psalms, and prayers in their native tongue.” Diana Butler Bass
“‘The hymns of the ancient church, of the Reformers, of the Bohemian brethren,’ the songs of those ‘who had lived and suffered through the Thirty Year’s War … all came alive for us … and we felt them to be our own. They mirrored our situation, they echoed our praise, they voiced our petitions, they articulated our repentance. In this group experience the church became once again a living reality for us, without boundaries of time or place, and we became increasingly conscious of being her members, men committed to her service, come what might.'” Wolf-Dieter Zimmerman, describing the experience of theological students in Bonhoeffer’s clandestine seminary
Moving From Head to Heart
- Have you experienced music’s power to transcend mere words?
- Would people at church say of you that “you never sing?” If so, why is that?
- How can you harness the “almost incredible power” of song for the good of your life with God?
For More: A Song to Sing … by Don and Emily Saliers
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