Monday, April 27, 2009

Why do we sing?

I just read an article titled "Musical Fellowship and Spiritual Teamwork" that gave one important answer to the question of why we sing hymns and we have choirs and bell choirs and special music like brass during our worship services.

It isn't a moot question. I was reminded of that at Easter dinner, when an agnostic, a Mormon, and a Lutheran organist sat down to dinner. There was quite a discussion about the theology and motivation (as well as the tradition) behind several aspects of worship. Guests who worship at our church do ask questions about all kinds of things that we take for granted. It's important for our own faith development and apologetics that we can articulate answers to questions such as why we sing.

The answer the aformentioned article advanced was the community building aspect. In corporate worship, we raise our voices together. Often, we are told to focus on the text and to consider the hymn a musical prayer, with our mind and heart focused on God. However, there's more to it than that; there is also the blending of the voices of the people around you and the fellowship and camaraderie of a community. Singing should always be a joyful experience from that perspective.

A member of Bethany once referred to playing in the bell choir as the ultimate team sport. That's a great analogy. We work together when we sing and make music, and we simultaneously are the audience as well, harmonizing our sounds together, with all of that raised in prayer, praise, petition, and proclamation of our faith. What a powerful and complex task it is to sing a hymn with all that in mind!

And yet, we cannot always be thinking quite so hard. It's also true that our songs give voice to our faith, thoughts, and emotions. In simpler, musical language, we can also answer the question in this way:

"I sing because I'm happy,
And I sing because I'm free.
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know he watches over me."

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