Scripture can be found here...
Do you have a favorite hymn? One that tunes your heart to sing God’s praise, that greets the one who is your sure redeemer, that gives thanks for the sweet sound of God’s Amazing grace?
I do. Or, to be more accurate, I have a number of favorite hymns. You most likely already know what some of them are, because, though try not to be too repetitive in my selections, well, sometimes I just can’t help myself. If it were up to me, and if I thought it wouldn’t drive you crazy, we would probably sing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” a couple of times a month, not to mention “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need.” And there are others.
If you were to ask me why these particular hymns are my favorites, I would have a plethora of reasons. I might tell you I love the melody. I might tell you it is because I associate the hymn with a particular event, or person, or time in my life. It might be a hymn I’ve known a long time, but which took on new meaning after I heard it used in a film. (That happened twice: “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” took on new and powerful meaning for me after the release of the new version of “True Grit,” and the film “Crimson Tide” introduced me to the real meaning behind “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”) But the reason I think overrides them all is this: In every hymn I call my “favorite” there is at least one line of poetry that speaks to me some powerful truth about God, a truth that I don’t want to ever forget.
Herewith, just a few of those lines:
“I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send?”
“No more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home.”
“Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.”
Whether we are aware of it or not, the hymns, psalms and spiritual songs we sing every Sunday are teaching us about God. The music in our times of worship does not function simply as adornment, something to make it beautiful, though it does that, too. The music in our worship is an integral part of our connection with God. It influences how we understand who God is, and what God has done for us, and it affords us opportunities to pray and give praise to God with our whole selves, lips and breath, body and spirit.
Our passage from the letter to the Colossians is a wonderful little compendium on the subject of music in the church. It starts with what God has done for us: God has chosen us to be a part of this beloved community. And if we are members of a beloved community, there are ways, not simply that we should behave, but that we will want to behave. As God’s chosen beloveds, we will want to “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” And because God is kind and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… a God of streams of mercy, never ceasing… well, of course, we will want to be loving and forgiving people.
And because God has done all of these things for us, we will want to continue to let God do good things for us. Let Christ’s peace dwell in us. Let our hearts be filled with gratitude. Let ourselves be bearers of the good news to one another.
And we will want to sing. We will not just want to sing, we will want to sing to God. About God. With God. With one another. Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise.
Today is about our taking an entire service of worship to see, to recognize, to acknowledge this: God has been so good to us, we are so blessed to be a part of God’s beloved community, that we can only respond with music. Today is about tuning our hearts to sing God’s grace, about letting God teach us some melodious sonnet that we will be able to return with hearts full of gratitude.
Today is about lifting up our voices… whether our own or those of our instruments… and singing to God. Thanks be to God. Amen.