Preach from Lewes Folk Festival Evensong, 9th October, 2016
I’m afraid I won’t be preaching in the style of a 17th or 18th Century fire and brimstone preacher today, (the cassock is about as far as I’ll go on that one!) but actually the sentiment is the same, that God, our wonderful heavenly Father, Jesus his son, the Holy Spirit within us, should be at the centre of our lives. And today I want to talk about God in our lives, through music. Of course – couldn’t talk about anything else really!
I grew up surrounded with music as my mum was and is, a great piano player. As tiny children we loved hearing ‘the penguin song’, and as my mum played me and my brother would waddle around pretending to be penguins, over and over again until My mum was fed up of playing it!
Now, I am married to a music lover and worship leader, and our kids have inherited that love too: between us all we own I think 5 guitars, a bass guitar, mandolin, flute, drum kit, piano and keyboard as well as countless shakers and harmonicas etc.
We love to play and to sing, and particularly for us, to use music to worship God.
For me there is just something spiritual about music, something more than just the notes we hear or the words being sung.
I love that line from our 2 Chronicles passage:
‘indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord’
They were as one – if you’ve ever heard a perfect harmony, or a great choir all singing in unison, it sounds just like that – they are as one. And here in our passage it was of course in worship to God.
And BTW just in case you think you can’t sing, (although unlikely this afternoon I am sure) Psalm 98 tells us to:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
It doesn’t say sing perfectly in tune – it just says make a joyful noise – it’s all about intention, about the heart behind it.
You know, historians suggest that we just don’t know the origin of music, but it could be that it grew out of naturally occurring sounds or rhythms. Perhaps early human music echoed those sounds, or used similar repeating patterns or tones.
Of course we just don’t know for sure but as a Christian I believe that God created the world and with that humans, and with that different giftings for us to be closer to him and to glorify him. In Exodus 35 we see a craftsman, Bezalel being filled with the Holy Spirit in order to create beautiful artistic designs for the temple. Why not the same with music?
In fact in Job 38 the Lord is speaking to Job and notes:
When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
I think human music-making is part of the music of creation. It reflects the order, beauty, and diversity of God’s creation. Which would explain quite why it carries so much power. I believe music carries the presence of God within it, it’s just that we don’t always recognise it as that. In our Chronicles passage we heard that during the singing:
that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
It was like their singing, their music carried the presence of God. It was so powerful they couldn’t continue their work!
The Christian church sings. It is not a choral society. Its singing is not a concert. But from inner, material necessity it sings. Singing is the highest form of human expression….What we can and must say quite confidently is that the church which does not sing is not the church. And where…it does not really sing but sighs and mumbles spasmodically, shamefacedly and with an ill grace, it can be at best only a troubled community which is not sure of its cause and of whose ministry and witness there can be no great expectation….The praise of God which finds its concrete culmination in the singing of the community is one of the indispensable forms of the ministry of the church.
Now I know not everyone here today will take this view, in fact many of you might not even accept that God exists, let alone be the author of music. But I hope we can agree that there is something extremely powerful in music, perhaps even something beyond the natural world.
I mean have you ever had one of those moments listening to music when you just have to stop, and listen? A piece of music that just touches something in you, you get goose bumps, maybe even shed a tear?
I had one of those a few weeks ago, looking at Facebook and a friend of mine had written a song about being a Child of God and put it on his page. It played automatically as I scrolled through my feed and it just hit me, it literally felt like the music was reaching into my soul. It was beautiful and haunting and it felt anointed, like it was full of God’s presence. I stopped. Tears filled my eyes and I listened to the song 4 times in a row. It was immensely powerful.
Aldous Huxley is quoted as saying:
After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
In our Chronicles passage the singers and musicians were part of the Priestly tribe, singing and making music was part of their calling, part of their God-given purpose. Just as today we might say that worship leaders, those who lead us in music in the church, are there to help us to encounter God, to lead us into the presence of God. Perhaps even into such a glorious presence that we cannot help but stop, like the Priests in our passage, just listen and breathe the atmosphere into our souls.
That is the power of music, as I believe the power of God in music. If you are a musician, or a singer, you have a calling, you have a gift, given to you by God to impact those around you. To help others experience something of God.
And of course the bible teaches us that the only way to the Father is through the son, through Jesus. We can experience something of God through music but if we want to truly know him, we have to know the son.
In our New Testament reading from Colossians, Paul says this at the end:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you.
Sing in your hearts to the Lord
Whatever you do, do it in the name of Jesus.
Music can help us to experience something of God but by itself, we see just part of the picture, a movement if you like, a verse maybe. Perhaps Jesus is like the Chorus, the point that everything builds up to, that brings a song alive, the part we remember most. The bible tells us that Jesus is the capstone, the person who holds everything together.
I’ve always loved music, but now that I know Jesus, when I sing, particularly in worship, there is so much more. Like another level of depth to a song, taking me both further into my soul and yet also further from myself, closer to my Saviour.
As we continue to sing our final hymn shortly, or perhaps as we listen to the music, let’s just think about where God is in the music, for us as individuals. What might we be experiencing through the music of worship? Why not take the opportunity to just think about Where Jesus is for us as we sing?