Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Music and Worship – Part I

Music communicates. This fact is rarely questioned. Music speaks to the heart, emotion, and intellect of mankind in a way that words alone cannot parallel. I think the power of music is most greatly seen in the realm of the spiritual. I feel obliged to pause briefly and clearly state for all my readers that this post will be the first in a series that will explore music from the perspective of a music minister and a Christian. If you are looking for theory or analysis of Classical music, come back tomorrow when I return to that topic. I ask you to bear with me for the next few Tuesdays as I devote some attention to the power of music and its role in our spiritual lives.
Let me share with you briefly what gave birth to this line of thought. Earlier today, I shared a CD recording of some hymn arrangements that I made a few years ago (Great is Thy Faithfulness: Hymns for the Heart of Worship c. 2005). I played well on the album – if I do say so – but more importantly, I felt as though that recording captured a very special time of worship in my personal life. After hearing the recording, the friend commented that he was greatly moved. He stated that the music reminded him of something that he had lost [my interpretation of his words] – something he had experienced years earlier in a small group gathering of Christian believers. As I reflected on his comments, I began to think about my personal experiences with music as they related to my walk of faith. I came to immediately recognize three facts about music's role in spiritual matters. There may be more that I may explore later, but for the next three weeks, I want to examine one of them each Tuesday. Consider these statements:
  • Music calms the spirit of man.
  • Music connects man with the Divine.
  • Music often precedes and/or accompanies great victories.
As I think of music's calming effects, my mind immediately races to the story of David playing his harp for a troubled King Saul. The Old Testament book of I Samuel tells that Saul was plagued by an evil spirit (I Samuel 16:14), but that the spirit would leave Saul when David would play skillfully upon his instrument.
Many find that music has a calming, soothing influence upon their minds. They identify music as a means that leads to relaxation. I think that there was more going on than just the plucking of harp strings calming the King's nerves. Rather, I hold that the young David not only played skillfully in the King's presence, but also with the anointing of God's Spirit. In my personal experience, not every skilled musician can speak to the deepest part of my soul with their music. I appreciate their talent and applaud their effort, but there is something lacking. However, when I hear a performance that is offered as a sacrifice of worship – regardless of the style of music being played – I often find myself summoned into the presence of the Most High God. That is where I begin to experience restoration, forgiveness, healing, and peace that I cannot find anywhere else. Do I think the music itself possesses the power? No, but I do believe it is an invaluable tool to take us to the Source of all power. That role of music will be examined next week.
Do I think my friend entered the presence of God while listening to my music today? I don't know for sure, but I suspect that he might have – even if he didn't totally recognize it as such. What I do know is that music can quiet our mind and spirit in such a way that we are finally able to clearly hear the voice of God speaking into our lives.
Tonight, my prayer for you is that in the midst of your personal chaos, music will transport you into the presence of a Holy God and that you will hear Him singing over you His perfect song of love.