worship: music, silence or other? – part 1

why do we worship in song? Let's start with Psalm 103, a song of David. The Psalms are full of songs in praise of God, as well as heartfelt cries of anguish, expressions of confidence and of fear. In fact, they contain a good description of the emotions we experience as our spirits seek to speak with God. Music and poetry, which are the components of hymns and songs, have the ability to crystallise our feelings and our thoughts. Participating in this artistry means we sing, which then requires the effort of our bodies as well as our minds and emotions. So when we allow God's spirit to direct all of these parts of us towards our Father in heaven, as David says, "All my being, praise His holy name!" 

I prefer hymns / modern songs / both / neither / I don't really mind – (delete as applicable. ) So you prefer one thing over another - good. Are you passionate about it - good! There are 85 places in the bible where we are instructed to sing. St Paul tells us to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. But he doesn't tell us which to prefer. There are all sorts of influences on what we do prefer - up-bringing, culture, our hearing, our own tunefulness, our rhythmic-ness (!) - Just as we have different preferences in playing and watching sport - though of course, rugby is the best sport... What are now hymns were once the new songs. Some songs are now old songs, and some new songs are hymns! Confused? - Probably. So what is important? Is it the quality of the composition, the poetry of the words, the musicianship of the players? Yes ! And No ! The authorship of our music should be of the highest quality that the writers are able to produce, and the playing should be of the best standard the musicians are capable of - that is part of their worship. Our worship is to put our whole hearts into the delivery. Of course, this means that some types of worship are uncomfortable for some. All those influences, which we looked at above, mould us to some extent. However, when the method of delivery is easiest, when our intellect and our emotions and our spirits agree, as with Brian Hoare and Charles Wesley, our worship is “Born in Song”.

What if you can't sing? see Psalm 100:1 - Revised Standard Version.

But what if singing does nothing for you? You may have no emotional connection with this whole process, or your musical preference is never expressed in our worship. There are two approaches we can consider: 1. Sing anyway, in obedience to St Paul's teaching, though this may feel more of a duty than heartfelt worship; 2. put your heart and soul into a different expression of your worship. As a musician, I can appreciate worship through other arts - painting, drama, craftsmanship, even preaching! - but for some, their expression of worship may be contemplation, biblical scholarship or deep prayer. All of us may worship through any or all of these means, but the key is that we do it to honour and bless God and we put the whole of ourselves into the effort of it. A worshipping congregation will become aware of the delight that God has in the praises of his people, and that lifts our hearts more.

What about service, can’t that be my act of worship? see part 2

Best bits about worship in the Bible, no. 1 Psalm 150. One for the musicians, and I don't think the list of instruments is meant to be complete. However, harps are mentioned twice - do the Welsh know something we don’t?

Graham Boler KMC’s organists, musicians and singers are there each Sunday to provide the framework for your worship, and the playing and singing is part of their act of worship. This might describe you, too, and if so, speak to me.

Graham Boler

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