Tuesday, June 15, 2010
If You Cannot Sing...
While we tend to think of music as reflective of individual, personal taste, music is a gift from God for the purpose of worship and praise of Him who gave us this gift. God never asks of us that which He has not first given to us and so it is with music. While music is dominantly secular today, it was not always so. Perhaps only a few hundred years ago and music was predominantly sacred. Choral music and music sung by an assembly remains dominantly religious in nature. There are few places where people gather as a group to sing that do not relate to worship. So even though we are tempted to believe that music has become predominantly a secular enterprise, we are reminded that we spend most of our time singing, singing in Church.
Now there are those who say that singing is not my thing. Some will confess (and not falsely) that they do not have a singing voice or the musical ability to carry a tune. I might go the path of those who say God said "make a joyful noise" and therefore it does not matter how badly you sing or how tone deaf you are, add your noise to the mix and do not be shy. My experience is that folks who do not sing or cannot sing do not appreciate being told to bellow like a cow and God will be glorified by it all (even though the Christians brothers and sisters around you may be scandalized).
I would suggest something very different. If you cannot or do not sing, do NOT stand there with your hymnal shut and your eyes looking around. Open your hymnal, place your eyes upon the text, move your lips, and sing in your heart and mind. The words and music that you cannot sing, you may speak in your heart and mind and move your lips to testify to this worship of "silent" singing. It is ridiculous to stand with the book shut and your eyes, heart, and mind wandering around the sanctuary while others sing. It is selfish to listen to others singing (remember they are not singing for you but to the Lord). It may not be salutary to join your voice if you cannot sing or your singing may distract from the song itself. Therefore, move your lips to show you are part of the assembly, read the words in your minds, and sing in your heart with the congregation that it may truly be the song of all that is lifted to the Lord with thanksgiving and joy.
Many years ago a rather blunt and mean spirited Pastor told my Dad not to sing because he sounded like a sick cow. Let us not continue to promote such foolishness and rudeness in the name of God. Congregational song is for all the people -- even if some will by necessity sing silently -- not with their voices but joyfully in their hearts. Hymns are the songs of the Church, the heritage of the faithful who went before us to which we add our own contributions -- the best of today for His glory. Let them continue to be the song of the Church (and all who are part of that community of faith). So I refuse to say not to sing but rather to sing in your heart if you cannot sing with your lips but to join us in that song, to move your lips as testament to your place within the great choir of the faithful, and let the Word in that song speak to you and through you and the music support that Word in its flight of praise, thanksgiving, worship, and witness (the great marriage of text and tune).
There is nothing sadder than to survey a people gathered in song only to see some folks standing there as if the congregation were singing for their benefit or they were not a part of this assembly called and gathered by the Spirit. So do not stand apart but join the community by singing in your heart, reading with your mind, and moving your lips in testament to the words that speak to us the Word and, in turn, speak it to the world in witness.