Shofar

Jewish tradition[:] …in the story of the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22), Abraham finds that the horns of the ram God provided for the sacrifice were left behind. Tradition has it that Abraham rescued these horns and made them into the shofar, which became the Jewish people’s central ritual instrument.

—Roberta R. King, Global Arts and Christian Witness: Exegeting Culture, Translating the Message, and Communicating Christ, 82

Our Worship Voice

Neither worship music nor its style should be the primary defining mark of any church. Its real engagement with the living Lord should be that defining mark in both attractions and missional ways. While leaders must give loving guidance to and development of the musical style of their community, there is something more profound to discover: its worship voice.

—Constance Cherry, The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song, 181

Preparing for Worship

Dear Christian,

As we gather for corporate worship tomorrow, we would all do well to remember that it is not a biblical necessity to enjoy the music—though it is not an outright sin to do so either—to which the truths of God’s word are set to melody, harmony and rhythm. “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.” (Colossians 3:16 ESV) If the music or musical style does not suit your personal and private tastes, make it your spiritual aim to rejoice in message of the lyric, for that is much more important than the music.If you cannot rejoice in the message of the lyric, either the lyric must change, or perhaps your heart.

—Jason French

The Power of Music

The idea of limiting and censoring music is at least as old as the 4th century BC, when Plato wrote that in the Republic he envisioned, the flute and other instruments “capable of modulation into all the modes” would be banned. We don’t think of Plato as a totalitarian, but he shared the  totalitarian rulers’ fear of the power of music to unleash the human spirit…It was no accident that Mao and Plato both wanted to ban certain kinds of music…

Glazov informs us, “The Taliban illegalized music completely in Afghanistan, and Ayatollah Khomeini banned most music from Iranian radio and television.” Lenin did not ban music, but he wouldn’t listen to lt. “It makes you want to say stupid, nice things and stroke the heads of people  who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell.”…

—William J. Federer, Change to Chains: The 6,000 Year Quest for Control, 77

Words and Music

It was not without reason that the fathers and prophets wanted nothing else to be associated as closely with the Word of God as music. Therefore, we have so many hymns and Psalms where message and music [Sermo et vox] join to move the listener’s soul….After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both words and music, namely, by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music and by providing sweet melodies with words.

—Martin Luther, “Preface to Georg Rhau’s Symphoniae iucundae,” Luther’s Works 53-323-24

 

REFORMATION 500: Luther on Music

I am not ashamed to confess publicly that next to theology there is no art which is the equal of music, for she alone, after theology, can do what otherwise only theology can accomplish, namely, quiet and cheer up the soul of man, which is clear evidence that the devil, the originator of depressing worries and troubled thoughts, flees from the voice of music just as he flees from the words of theology.

—Martin Luther

The People’s Song (3)

The Time is a very primary consideration, but it is too often treated as a matter of no consequence. Large bodies move slowly, and hence the tendency to drawl out tunes in numerous assemblies. We have heard the notes prolonged till the music has been literally swamped, drenched, drowned in long sweeps and waves of monotonous sound. On the other hand, we cannot endure to hear psalms and solemn hymns treated as jigs, and dashed through at a gallop. Solemnity often calls for long-drawn harmony, and joy as frequently demands leaping notes of bounding delight. Be wise enough to strike the fitting pace each time, and by your vigorous leadership inspire the congregation to follow en masse. May we in the very gentlest whisper beg you to think very much of God, much of the singing, and extremely little of yourself. The best sermon is that in which the theme absorbs the preacher and hearers, and leaves no one either time or desire to think about the speaker; so in the best congregational singing, the leader is forgotten because he is too successful in his leadership to be noticed as a solitary person. The head leads the body, but it is not parted from it, nor is it spoken of separately; the best leadership stands in the same position. If your voice becomes too noticeable, rest assured that you are but a beginner in your art.

—Charles Spurgeon, The Sword and The Trowel, June 1, 1870. 276-277

The People’s Song

Could we rule the service of song in the house of the Lord, we should, we fear, come into conflict with the prejudices and beliefs of many most excellent men, and bring a hornet’s nest about our ears. Although we have neither the will nor the power to become reformer of sacred music, we should like to whisper a few things into the ear of some of our Jeduthuns or Asaphs, who happen to be “chief musicians” in country towns or rural villages. We will suppose the following words to be our private communication:

O sweet singer of Israel, remember that the song is not for your glory, but for the honour of the Lord, who inhabiteth the praises of Israel; therefore, select not anthems and tunes in which your skilfulness will be manifest, but such as will aid the people to magnify the Lord with their thanksgivings. The people come together not to see you as a songster, but to praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Remember also, that you are not set to sing for yourself only, but to be a leader of others, many of whom know nothing of music; therefore, choose such tunes as can be learned and followed by all, that none in the assembly may be compelled to be silent while the Lord is extolled. Why should so much as one be defrauded of his part through you? Simple airs are the best, and the most sublime; very few of the more intricate tunes are really musical. Your twists, and fugues, and repetitions, and rattlings up and down the scale, are mostly barbarous noise-makings, fitter for Babel than Bethel. If you and your choir wish to show off your excellent voices, you can meet at home for that purpose, but the Sabbath and the church of God must not be desecrated to so poor an end.

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The Sword and The Trowel, June 1, 1870, 276-277

Song in Its Proper Place

It is unscriptural to view worship songs as capable of initiating or guaranteeing God’s presence….Songs of worship cannot create, deliver, or otherwise command God’s presence. We cannot sing down the presence of God. The presence is already real. Music is an element in worship, like other elements, that helps us to interact conversationally with the triune God who is present, but music must not be given power on our terms.

—Constance Cherry, The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song, 67-68

“That would be more characteristic of Baal worship.”

—John Witvliet

Make Music (9)

Paul’s exhortation to sing, then, is bound up with his emphasis throughout the Epistle on the unity of the body of Christ. Music voices the shared life of the church. It is not accidental that the commands to sing in Eph. 5:19 lead on to the exhortation in verse 21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Music is both an image and a means of attaining to this unity. Structurally, the command to sing is the hinge connecting two sections of the epistle. Chapters 4 and 5 urge the Christians to put away the kind of self‐gratifying and self‐interested behavior that destroys community. The second half of Chapter 5 and the first half of Chapter 6 paint a picture of healthy community life, in which each member senses and responds to the needs of others.

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 643

Make Music (8)

Music, of course, does not remake us; the Holy Spirit does. But it seems possible that music may be one means by which the Holy Spirit makes us people who feel and respond. We are brought to our senses. We are drawn out of the darkness of self‐absorption and become aware of the world around us, our place within and responsibility to it. In song we move in a dance of sympathy with the others who are singing, and by the body are drawn out of ourselves and into the Body.

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 643

Make Music (7)

Sensitivity and responsiveness to the created order and to other human beings—this characterizes the Holy Spirit’s work among the children of light. It is also an apt description of what happens and what is required when we sing and make music well. As we sing together we attend to the activity of our own bodies in making sound, and we regard and respond to our own song as we hear it resonate in the space around us. We hear and attune ourselves to the sound of others’ voices. We respond not only to people, but to the physical qualities of he sound we are creating with others and the physical and acoustical properties of the space in which we sing. Moreover, we submit ourselves together to a tempo, a pattern of melody and rhythm, and we respond dynamically to the shape and movement of our musical interaction.

——Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 642

Make Music

Most of Ephesians 4 and all of Ephesians 5 address what it means to live as children of light, or more conventionally, what it means to live holy lives. Paul gives many commands and instructions, but ultimately men and women are made holy by the Spirit who is called Holy. Therefore Paul’s command in Eph. 5:18—“Be filled with the Holy Spirit”—is the culmination of these chapters, both rhetorically and theologically. The passive imperative—“be filled”—is followed by four subordinate participial clauses: (1) speaking to one another in songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; (2) singing and making music in your hearts; (3) giving thanks to the Lord; (4) submitting to one another. These participles are grammatically dependent upon the verb, and they give substance and content to the command to be filled with the Spirit. And remarkably, two of the four clauses—three of the five participles—have to do with making music.

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 639

Not a Universal Language

You may wipe away tears of worshipful awe while hearing a mass choir sing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” [Some] who’ve shared the famous chorus in other countries find that it’s not universally appreciated.

  • Senufo people in Ivory Coast said it sounded “like crying music.”
  • It reminded Maasai people in Kenya of noisy jet engines.
  • Tibetans said it was “not steady.” They wondered how a song with so many high and low pitches and loud and soft volumes could be considered fine art.

“Music is a universal phenomenon but not a universal language. In other words, our response to music is learned and not intrinsic,” says . . . Robin Harris, an ethnomusicologist who’s been a missionary in North America, Siberia, and Russia.

—Joan Huyser-Honig, “Ethnodoxology: Calling All Peoples to Worship in Their Heart Language” http://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/ethnodoxology-calling-all-peoples-to-worship-in-their-heart-language/?source=news

Pleasing the Father

We must beware of the naïve idea that our music can ‘please’ God as it would please a cultivated human hearer. That is like thinking, under the old Law, that He really needed the blood of bulls and goats. To which an answer came, ‘mine are the cattle upon a thousand hills’, and ‘if I am hungry, I will not tell thee.’ If God (in that sense) wanted music, He would not tell us. For all our offerings, whether of music or martyrdom, are like the intrinsically worthless present of a child, which a father values indeed, but values only for the intention.

—C.S. Lewis, “On Church Music,” Christian Reflections 98-99