Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and a song of praise is fitting. The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:1-3 (ESV).
Yes, it is good to sing praises to our God. Music helps us to release the full emotional content of our joy.
Imagine all of the songs sung in all of the churches all around the world since the time of Jesus.
Music is so essential to worship most of us do not give it a second thought—we just enjoy it. We might come to church on Sunday morning feeling a little down, a little apathetic, but after singing a few hymns we cannot help but feel better.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:18).
“With all your heart”—that is the key thing. Singing in church is not a test, but an expression of our best understandings of God in faith.
Is singing so obviously part of church that it is routine?
It should never be that, and if we turn our memories back to when we were not church-goers and possibly agnostic, or atheistic, we will remember how radical and strange the act of singing seemed to be. A first-time attendant of church will feel very self-conscious about singing, wondering if somebody somewhere is ridiculing him for doing so. It will not be long, hopefully, before the Spirit removes that fear and replaces it with joy.
Thomas C. Oden has stated :
Only music is capable of expressing much that occurs in worship. The profound relation of worship and music . . . remains a point of meditative reflection for the serious liturgist. It is a regular weekly practical issue and challenge to the pastor to bring worship and music into proper integration.
It is not enough for most of us simply to hear the Word, or the sermon. If we are going to love God with our hearts as well as our minds, we need to accept the offer presented in Colossians 3:16: “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.”
God does not want us to be grim-faced galley-slaves; he wants us to be joyful.
A word that we hear might enter our heads, but a word that we sing will “dwell in us richly.”
Music in the Pandemic
We note that in these difficult times of the pandemic, music is finding many new ways of being heard. People are singing from balconies; outside residences for seniors; and through countless technological avenues.
Bring on the earthly challenges—the gospel will find a way to be heard and fellowship enjoyed.
3 Canadian Hymns
Let’s look at the lyrics of three classic hymns which glorify God and, as an incidental matter, have Canadian connections:
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer . . .
These well-known lyrics were written by a man named Joseph Mendicott Scriven. Born in Ireland in 1819, he emigrated to Canada in 1845.
Mr. Scriven was familiar with sorrow. He had a fiancée in Ireland who died the night before they were to be married. After moving to Port Hope, Ontario he became engaged again but his fiancée fell ill from pneumonia and she also died. He then “devoted the rest of his life to tutoring, preaching and helping others (Wikipedia).”
The lyrics of this song are simple but carry an important message—carry everything to God in prayer.
This traditional hymn, played in churches around the world for over 150 years, is still attracting the attention of contemporary artists like Amy Grant and Allan Jackson (see Wikipedia,YouTube).
So Send I You
So send I you to labour unrewarded
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown
To bear rebuke, or suffer scorn and scoffing
So send I you to toil for Me alone
So send I you to bind the bruised and broken
Over wandering souls to work, to weep, to wake
To bear the burdens of a world a-weary
So send I you to suffer for my sake. . .
These lyrics were written by Margaret Clarkson. Born in Melville, Saskatchewan, she lived and worked in Ontario most of her life, dying in 2008.
Her inspiration for the song comes from John 20:21: “As the Father has sent me, so send I you (KJV).” This is a favorite hymn amongst missionaries everywhere.
My Jesus I Love Thee
My Jesus I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now. . .
. . . In mansions of glory and endless delight
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright.
These lyrics were written by William Ralph Featherston who lived from 1848-1875. He attended a Methodist church in Montreal , wrote the poem when he was a teenager and died when he was only 27 years old (Wikipedia). The line “I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright” almost seems like a premonition.
This has been a brief sampling of the rich and wide-ranging world of Christian hymns. These classic hymns “travel” well. They travel between denominations, through different musical styles, across generations, and into foreign countries. They play an important role in unifying the body of Christ.
Does anyone have some musical instruments handy? If they do, then let’s all join in—
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
Praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
Praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud crashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Patrick McKitrick is as OC Associate, who provides regular meditations for the OC Team. When he was a kid, Patrick dreamed of being the Prime Minister of Canada, or a cowboy! If he had a free afternoon, you might find Patrick on the back patio reading or snoozing! His favourite verse is Psalm 130:5-6, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning."
 Thomas C. Oden, Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry (New York: HarperCollins) 1983, p.96.