Experiencing God Through Music

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

This Sunday is the day we commemorate several key musicians.  Johann Sebastian Bach, Heinrich Schutz and George Frederick Handel all died on this date (not in the same year, of course!)  Each was an amazing musician who created beautiful music and wonderful songs of praise to God.  Bach was especially prolific, writing over two hundred cantatas to be used in Sunday worship.  These cantatas were based on the Bible readings for the day and were used to augment sermons and other teachings.  Christians have a rich heritage of music and composition.

How do we continue in that wonderful tradition of creativity and musical praise of God?  At our 9:30 worship service we have a number of liturgies which were written especially for us.  It may be time for us to commission a new liturgy, or new songs for our worship services.  Martin Luther (the founder of the LutheranChurch) once said that he who sings prays twice.  Singing is the only activity humans do that utilizes both hemispheres of the brain at the same time.   Singing is a gift of God.  The best use of this gift is to praise God.  But it is not only humans who sing.  Creation sings as well.  We know this is true of birds, perhaps and we enjoy their songs to one another.  We may even be able to think about animals like whales as singing underwater, sonic songs.  But, the Psalms state that even non-living things sing hymns to God.   Psalm 65 states that the valleys and meadows, “deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.”  Psalm 96 asserts that the trees of the forest will one day sing for joy at the Lord’s coming.  Creation is singing out praises to God as well.  We simply aren’t always aware of their songs.

Oddly, to me at least, there are no references to singing in any of the Gospels.  The only references are in two of the stories of the last supper where the disciples finish up eating and then sing a hymn before they depart for the garden.  So, obviously the disciples and Jesus sang together.  Why don’t we have more references to singing then?  Perhaps it is because it was so ubiquitous.  I think the disciples must have felt about singing in a similar way to how we thing about the air we breath.  It is always there, and we use it and need it, but we don’t think about it very often. 

In Acts when the disciples are locked up in prison they sing.  They sing in their homes when they gather for worship, they sing when they are on the road. 

What is it about music and singing that is so important to who we are as human beings?  Music has the ability to move our hearts in powerful ways.  Martin Luther once said that a sacrament was any thing that moved the human heart. If we were to accept that definition, we would then have to maintain that music is a sacrament.  There is something so powerful about singing a song together when everyone is fully engaged in the process. 

Quotes for the Week

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”    Berthold Auerbach

“There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.”  William P. Merrill

“Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.”       Ludwig van Beethoven 

I realized that it’s all really one, that John Lennon was correct.  We utilize the music to bring down the walls of Berlin, to bring up the force of compassion and forgiveness and kindness between Palestines, Hebrews.  Bring down the walls here in San Diego, Tijuana, Cuba.”         Carlos Santana

“The joy of music should never be interrupted by a commercial.”  Leonard Bernstein

“All the shopping malls and restaurants and airports are riddled with low-fidelity loudspeakers, which apparently have developed the ability to reproduce by themselves; these are all connected to a special programming service called Muzak that nobody really likes and you cannot get away from it.” 

“I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else.”                                                   Lily Tomlin

 “The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots as a joke, but the Scots haven’t got the joke yet.”                                               Oliver Herford

1st Lesson Psalm 47 (NRSV)

Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. 2 For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth. 3 He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. 4 He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah 5 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. 7 For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm. 8 God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. 9 The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted.

Gospel Lesson Matthew 2626-30 (NRSV)

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Questions for the Week

What is your favorite type of music, your favorite musician?

What is it about that music that you enjoy and that moves you?

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