And so the debate continues….Really to my mind such a ridiculous discussion that we have allowed to taint the times we have of praise with scowls and sourpuss faces. Silly expressions, you say? What I find truly remarkable, and even silly, is the type of discord that we allow to filter into our places and times of worship! Hmmm, I guess my inside voice just snuck out:( It makes me sad watching different generations react to certain genres of music with distain and dislike. The thing is that we’re all guilty of it to some degree…if we’re really honest there have been times when we’ve sat in a service with our hands crossed like a small child, mad because we didn’t get our way. I’ve watched it…I’ve seen the older fellow across the aisle with his nose turned up at the overly repetitious chorus that “really doesn’t say anything at all”. In the same service I’ve looked on my other side to see the younger person standing with their arms folded and their eyes rolling at the completely “old-fashioned” lyrics to that hymn that “sounds like it dropped right out of the 1800’s”. Heck I’ve even closed my eyes and viciously fought the temptation to plug my ears when the strains of a southern gospel tune hits my eardrums. There is no denying that we all have various tastes in music and our minds process the beauty of notes threaded together in very different ways.
Having come to that realization many years ago I’ve also learned a few other things along the way. The first being that I want my children to grow in appreciation for the many styles, genres and sounds of music that fill our world. Second and even more important I see the desperate need to appreciate both the people who create various styles of music and the individuals who enjoy them. The thing is that God didn’t actually call us to present him with perfection when we worship through song, in fact the very opposite is true if you read the Psalms…
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
The Psalmist very clearly tells us that God wants us to bring before him our joy no matter how terrible it sounds. He uses the word “noise” which is clearly defined as a sound, especially one that is loud and unpleasant and causes a disturbance. By that definition we should all be plugging our ears and running from our church sanctuaries on a regular basis. The point of the passage is that God created us to worship Him, and when we do so through song it’s really more about where our heart is than when our musical preference lies.
AN OLDIE BUT A GOODIE
As part of my desire to show my children that music is about the connection we have with our Creator I began incorporating some different song selections into their bedtime routine. I pulled out my mom’s old hymnal and selected a song or two to sing to them occasionally when I tuck them in. The funny thing is, they LOVE it. They all love music and we have a variety of musical genres on our devices but it didn’t occur to me that one day they’d actually be asking me to sing them a song “from the green book” before drifting off to sleep. Now let’s be clear that I am not advocating a revival of the clunky, small-print books gracing the pews of our churches. What I am suggesting, is that much like the stories of the worship choruses we change up faster than we learn them on Sunday mornings, our “oldie, but goodie” hymns have a story that inspire our hearts to closer fellowship with God.
STORIES THAT INSPIRE
I vividly remember as a child attending a funeral of one of my dad’s relatives in Grande Prairie, Alberta. I have no recollection of who the relative was, what the weather was like, or who I met that day but I do remember belting out the hymn “How Great Thou Art”. The gathered mourners began to sing this hymn, a favorite of the recently departed, and as the swells of melodic voices came to “….I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder…” a great clap of thunder echoed outside the building. I will never in my life forget that moment. I’ve never talked to my parents about it, it just happened. Perhaps I fear them recalling that nothing of the sort actually happened and my love of that song, and others like it would somehow be diminished. Despite the possibility of my memory being incorrect I do remain enthralled by the stories many of them tell. The stories that inspired the writing of such deep, loving words, but also the stories that unfold as you enter the musical realm. When I sing hymns like “Crown Him with many Crowns”, “The Love of God”, “Amazing Grace”, or “It is Well with my Soul” I hear the story of my life unfold before me. I see the disgrace and shame of my sin, the sacrifice of my Savior, the rescue of my undeserving soul and feel the glory of finally seeing my Creator face to face and my heart is full of love and joy and peace.
WHAT’S THE PURPOSE
These beautiful melodies evoke in me the same response as Avalon’s, “You Were There”, Chris Tomlin’s, “Our God”, Fee’s, “We Crown You”, or Jesus Culture’s, “Waiting Here for You”. As I listen to the lyrics and allow the melodies to quietly invade my heart, what I KNOW is that the purpose of music is for us to express our joy in the gift of salvation and to present our hearts as a sacrifice. When we enter into a place of worship, regardless of how others are impacted, we open our hearts to allow the Holy Spirit freedom to fill us.
Does that mean our enjoyment of the previously “unpleasant” noise immediately changes? Not particularly. I still find myself cringing when I hear certain songs or styles of music but I’ve chosen a different response. Instead of folding my arms and impatiently waiting to get to the songs I love, I open my eyes and glance around the room at those who are completely enraptured by the movement of the Holy Spirit in their hearts because the “noise” has opened their hearts and turned their ears toward Him!