Are there any fans of Liverpool football club out there? As victory in the Premiership became a reality, how did their supporters celebrate? Apart from the usual excesses of alcohol and laddish behaviour, it was their singing that came immediately to our attention. Singing is one of the first things we love to do when there is something to celebrate – wishing a Happy Birthday would not be the same without the music to accompany it!
Our liturgy takes us immediately from introversion and confession to absolution and celebration. As Christians, absolutely confident of forgiveness through the cross of Jesus, we too will wish to express it out loud:
O Lord, open our lips, And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
We sing to you, O Lord, and bless your name,
And tell of your salvation from day to day.
This is a two-fold response. Firstly, for God to open our mouths to praise him, secondly, for the proclamation of what he has done for us, so that others will hear the good news. As our churches begin to open up for private prayer, some of us are lamenting the continued situation that we can’t join together to sing. However, sometimes we can lose that sense of passion and excitement when we come together to express what God has done for us.
It would be great to still be able to hear the worship of our forefathers, but sadly the cassette recorder was not invented until the 1960s! But, did you notice the words in our Psalm this morning?
See God on parade to the sanctuary, my God, my King on the march! Singers out front, the band behind, maidens in the middle with castanets.The whole choir blesses God. Like a fountain of praise, Israel blesses God.Psalm 68 MSG
The Old Testament is full of examples of when music was used to respond to God. For example, one passage in the Book of I Chronicles tells of the joyous occasion that marked the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem:
(David) appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to extol, thank, and praise the LORD, the God of Israel: …they were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, …the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God.1 Chr. 16. 4-6 NIV
And their instruction from David:
Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.1 Chr. 16. 8-10 NIV
Even in Old Testament times, one of the primary purposes of praising God was mission – the sharing of a testimony of God’s love for not only his own people but for all nations too.
In the New Testament, singing remained an important component of the disciples’ meetings:
Christ’s message in all its richness must live in your hearts. Teach and instruct one another with all wisdom. Sing psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing to God with thanksgiving in your hearts.Col. 3.16
Finally, The Book of Revelation gives us a hint that singing may be something we will take into glory:
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”Rev. 5.9
How can we respond today? I am reminded of the opening of a chorus that we used to sing back in the 1970s:
I get so excited, Lord,
Every time I realise
I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven.
Jesus, Lord, You’ve done it all,
You’ve paid the price:
I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven.
My heart just fills with praise;
My feet start dancing, my hands rise up,
And my lips they bless Your name.
I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven.
Mick Ray. Copyright © 1978 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music.
May we share something of that joy, as we face another challenging week.