The people of God sing.
After escaping from the Egyptians and crossing the Red Sea the people of Israel sang a song to the Lord (Exodus 15). Singing was part of Israel’s formal worship in both tabernacle and temple. The Psalms bear rich testimony that in joy and sorrow, in praise and lament, the faithful raise their voices in song to God. Hymn singing was practiced by Jesus and his disciples. The Apostle Paul instructed the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” (Col. 3:16)
Contemporary culture and modern technology bring new possibilities and new challenges to the music of the church. People’s lives are surrounded with music. Yet much of the time music functions as “background” rather than as an opportunity for serious listening, much less participation. Outside the church there are few opportunities for people to sing together.
Music is capable of evoking powerful emotions. Hearts are stirred and feet set to tapping by a rousing Sousa march, while another melody may move people to tears. John Calvin said music “lends dignity and grace to sacred actions and has the greatest value in kindling our heart to a true zeal and eagerness to pray.” Music can indeed “excite piety,” and move individuals to penitence, thanksgiving, adoration, love, or any one of a host of emotions.
Together we will reflect and celebrate the gift and power of music every Sunday in July, “harmonizing” with our community’s Bach Festival. Bach is famously called, “The Fifth Gospel” for his powerful sacred music. Inspired by that phrase, we will feature presentations on the spiritual power of music by Joanne, me and our musicians, calling our sermon series, “The Fifth Gospel.”
This Sunday, July 7, we begin, with Melinda Coffey Armstead as our musician-speaker (and I’ll be the preacher).