What We Do When We “Do” Church – Hymnody

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [emphasis added]

Music has always been a big part of my life.

After I heard my cousin play the organ in her home when I was 10, I wanted to play and begged my parents to let me take piano lessons.

I took lessons for about six months – learning how to read music but quickly growing bored with the amount of required practice and quit.

I realize now that I just didn’t have the gift of playing, but am thankful that I took those six months of lessons as it gave me the tools I would need to be able to sing in choirs in high school, college and seminary.

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I – like most kids my age – loved rock and roll. I went to my first rock concert in 1981 and went to enough concerts to develop an acute case of tinnitus.

During college I grew to love classical music and during seminary I was an announcer on a classical music radio station and went on to host an internet radio show during the first decade of the twenty-first century.

I much prefer to have music playing when I write and work on devotions or even read – preferred music being classical or ambient music, in part because of my tinnitus, but mostly because of my love of music!

I’ve come to realize that my life has a soundtrack, of sorts. This is not an accident of hearing, however.

I think music is how God intends for His creation to live. Bird-song. Whale-song. There’s a “music” to an early morning in the Spring and early evening in Summer.

There was a Middle-age concept called “music of the spheres” that I contend is just a hold-over of this eternal truth that God’s creation is musical. In fact, Christian author C.S. Lewis incorporates this into his mythology of Narnia when he states that Aslan sings Narnia into existence (in the book The Magician’s Nephew.)

My life is filled with music. When it is cool and rainy, I listen to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and other jazz musicians. When I write, I listen to Brian Eno, Deuter, and other ambient musicians. When I’m driving, I listen to Rush, Boston, and other rock bands. When the family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner, I like to put on music by Eric Tingstad, Nancy Rumbel, and other such musicians. When I start my day with devotions and prayer, I like to use the music of Richard Souther, especially his Prayer Closet series of recordings.

I believe is this the way God may the world and especially me.

When we look at corporate worship in the Christian Church, I experience the same kind of thing. It is full of song!

Worship song is more commonly called “hymnody.” The hymns that are sung in worship are especially profound in my church tradition – Lutheranism.

They are the soundtrack of our lives – Christmas, Lent, Easter, Summer, Autumn – all have specific hymns and types of hymns that go with them.

For example, what would Christmas be with the hymn “Silent Night”? Or Easter with “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” or “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”? Or the Thanksgiving hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”?

I suspect that as you read those titles you were actually hearing the hymns in your heads and some of you may even be singing them out loud!

Music is an important aspect of human life. Think of the movies that are so popular – Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones – they all have iconic soundtracks associated with them. In fact, if you were to take the music away from these kinds of films, they would be severely lacking and would lose their impact.

God created us in His image and music is an important part of lives. The Westminster Catechism starts off with this emphasis by asking, “What is the chief end of man?” and answering, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

To “glorify God” means, in part, to sing His praise. And that is why worship includes so much music!

In my congregation, each worship service begins with a hymn or song that gives praise to God and reminds us that we are gathering to glorify Him! And music is woven throughout the worship service to the very end – which we will continue to explore throughout these devotions.


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