When we sing together of the Lord and His great works, we are reminded of our common dreams, our common trust, our common beliefs that our God is an awesome God, He is mighty to save, and His grace is amazing how sweet the sound. Christians singing reminds us where we came from and to whom we belong. We share our beliefs in our great, creator God, our friend, savior Jesus, and our guide and comforter the Holy Spirit in shared lyrics, in rhythm. We etch these thoughts and beliefs in our memory banks because rhythm and long-term memory are right next to each other in our brains. Thank you, O great and wise Creator!
Our Bibles are filled with the songs of celebration and lament shared by God’s people. Of all the things that made it into Miriam’s backpack when she was told to pack to leave Egypt and head into the desert, she brought a tambourine. A quick evacuation was hardly the time to think of singing and dancing, yet she and a whole bunch of women thought to bring instruments for at some unknown point, they’d be singing before the Lord in praise and thanksgiving. They were right! An evil spirit took over King Saul until the boy David played his harp. The songs of a child kept evil spirits at bay! Acts 16 has Paul and Silas broken, bodies torn, chained, hungry, hurting, thirsty, dark, sore at midnight breaking into song to equip them to persevere. Colossians 3 reminds us to sing to one another of the Lord to teach and grow a heart of gratitude. When we sing, we are praying in rhythm from the depths of our souls and it pleases the Lord.
I know of small gatherings of Christians in this country who gather for worship and shut the blinds, turn off the lights, and pull their children close….just to sing praises to the Lord. They sing acapella because instruments are too loud and they’ll be heard, reported, arrested, fined, and imprisoned. This is not an act of rebellion, but rather a weekly measure of sustaining mental and spiritual health. Just think: entire genres of music have come out of human history of oppression, sorrow, disappointment, and despair to offer hope. Hope is felt when we sing these songs together.
Beth Moore wrote Entrusted: A Study of 2 Timothy in 2016. She teaches from 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” The word servants here comes from the Greek huperetes with hupo = under, beneath and eretes = a rower. Think of the third-tier rowers, the under-rowers, of those days were men crammed into the bottom of a sailing vessel rowing without knowing where they were headed, backs to the front, all moving in sync to a common destination, moved by the muscles of many in tandem without much light, weary, sweaty, in repetition, but moving onward against the tide, together. The speed and synchronicity of movement was set by song. A song sung at times by one, at times by some, and at times by all of the under-rowing sailors.
Singing in community is a super spreader of the pandemic and who knows what else. I confess it’s terribly awkward to sing in the living room or to a laptop. When I sing, I’m just loud unless I’m in community. Then I sound pretty good. Anyone else sound better in a choir or with others or is that just me?
If we, like Paul, profess to be slaves to Christ, we are under-rowers. I’ve got to sing! Beth Moore says, “Sometimes the song reminds us it’ll be worth the work.”
A dear friend who listens to me wrestle with these tensions said just last week, “My voice has changed because it’s not being used.”
I’m not sure I want to wave the banner of rebellion. I’m a rule follower and I submit to the authority over me. Like everything else, I must find a way to do it differently because that’s what love requires of me. I have committed to sing every day in my home, in my car, and with my family. I will encourage my ministry families to sing each day. I will do my best to do no harm, but I will sing….I must sing. My heart needs to sing, my head needs to hear the music shared with the saints who have gone before me, our children know there is joy in the home when Mama sings.
I’ve brought out my CDs from the 90s and early 2000s of gospel hymns, Amy Grant, Sandi Patty, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Michael W. Smith, 4Him, and Point of Grace. I know all the words and I can sing as loud as I want in my car with tears streaming down my face in ugly cry for these were my helps when I was teaching my own children the language of our shared faith.
We are about to enter a season which is defined by bright lights, evergreens, the babe in a manger, and seasonal music. These words repeated year after year stick in our minds and hearts with personal memories attached and are filled with the language of our faith. The apostle Paul reminded the young Timothy to remain trained in the words, the language, of our faith. We have always used music as a vehicle to pass along the language of our faith in Jesus to littles. Music makes words and language sticky. Especially for littles. And if it’s good for littles, it’s good for everyone. It’s just going to look different.
I’m packing my tambourine….
“Standing on the promises of Christ my King, Through eternal ages let His praises ring; Glory in the highest I will shout and sing. Standing on the promises of God.”
“He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day.” Psalm 96:1-2