THE GIFT OF MUSIC
This Advent and Christmas season I have had the opportunity to visit several churches to be a part of their presentation of Christmas music. One of the important components of my ministry is to encourage worship music leaders of the churches who associate with our state convention. It is a rare occasion to get to simply attend programs these leaders have pieced together and poured themselves into as musician ministers themselves. Attending several of these this year has prompted me to seriously contemplate afresh the value and ministerial potency of music as ministry.
It is far beyond the scope of this posting to address all the ways in which music can minister, or to explore the theological depths of music as worship offering, worship expression, Gospel witness, lamentation, balm, etc. These notions, rich with multi-faceted implications, deserve exploration individually. Instead, in this season of gift-giving and receiving I want to simply call attention to the gift that is music, and I hope to stir your thoughts and sensibilities to the same in such a way as to prod worshipful response. Music, oh what a gift!
Music is a gift from God. Through experience we know that music can somehow comfort, excite, encourage, and call from within the human spirit many other reactions, even to the extent at times so as to move beyond what mere words seem able to do. Explaining physiological brain chemistry changes during music making or listening falls far short of articulating the power of being somehow moved by music. That inexplicable quality is part of what reminds me over and again that this art form, music, is truly a gift from God. Some faith traditions even call it sacrament, a means of grace, and as such a way in which God’s real presence is made known to us. Even without sacramental language we can surely agree that as the Spirit is alive in and present in worshiping hearts gathered in the Name of Jesus, He may choose to touch the human soul through the gift that He has given. Examples of such movement are widespread in every era from Old Testament to New Testament to Augustine to Luther to Bach to frontier revivals to modern day testimonies in countless numbers. Though undoubtedly subject to bastardized imitation that in truth is motivated by self gain, still the Lord continues to employ this gift of music to minister to people. A gift from God that He has given to us. Thanks be to God!
Music is a gift to God. For most, the first thought of music in worship is to see it as something we offer as worship to God. Music can, of course, serve as art offering from worshipers directed to and for God,- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It serves to offer our praise and thanks. Even as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we do so as a gift of life service to God Himself. Our proclamation of the Gospel in and through music, though directed toward fellow humans, is at once understood as gift to God, since it is ultimately Him we are seeking to serve. Our testimony of faith rested fully in Him joins our music with the music of the ages. It is the Song of Deliverance, which was the song of Moses at the crossing of the Red Sea, of Miriam, of David, and of the Israelites ascending to the Temple. The song of deliverance is themed in Mary’s Magnificat, the song of shepherds, and magi, of Jesus with His disciples, of the new covenant body of believers, the Church in its infancy, and lo, as we look into the book of Revelation we see that the song of Heaven around the Great White Throne is still the Song of Moses and the Lamb. When we proclaim Victory in Jesus or the great Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s MESSIAH, or join Casting Crowns Gospel testimony in Glorious Day, we are singing the sweet, sweet song of salvation, offering our profession of faith in Christ as not only word to fellow man, but as faith expression to the God we worship! Whewww! My goosebumps arise as does my hunger to sing Him a song of praise because of His magnificent grace.
Either consideration of music as gift, whether from God or to God, elicits substantive tensions for the pastoral musician, as it should for anyone either making or listening to music as worship. While utilitarian leaders often dismiss questions of quality as musical elitism, or simply as unrealistic, after all who has standing to declare this music or that as appropriate representation of God’s gift, or as adequate to express our best praise and thanks to God? Suffice it to say the flesh fails us in either quest to make a kind of music that can be said to be truly representative of God’s intention for music as an adequate display of the gift He has given. None of us would likely venture such an audacious claim. Likewise in offering gift to God, who among us would say this music or that is of quality appropriate to God’s standards of artistic donation, and thus is what He desires? As with any gift given us by God only He can empower it. As in all worship acts we find ourselves inadequate, needing a Savior, for it is only “Through Jesus” that we bring the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). Perhaps His intention is that we live out our worship in that tension, praying that He would empower even as we strive to offer our best in thankful response to His grace giving.How often, making music, we have found A new dimension in the world of sound, As worship moved us to a more profound Alleluia! - Fred Pratt Green, 1971 Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church keyboard players, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship