Yet another! This one on humility in church music:
There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God. The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect. Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense.
This on why worship is the most awesomest thing ever…
An excellently performed piece of music, as natural operation which reveals in a very high degree the peculiar powers given to man, will thus always glorify God whatever the intention of the performers may be. But that is a kind of glorifying which we share with the ‘dragons and great deeps’, with the ‘frost and snows’. What is looked for in us, as men, is another kind of glorifying, which depends on intention. How easy or how hard it may be for a whole choir to preserve that intention through all the discussions and decisions, all the corrections and the disappointments, all the temptations to pride, rivalry and ambition, which precede the performance of a great work, I (naturally) do not know. But it is on the intention that all depends. When it succeeds, I think the performers are the most enviable of men; privileged while mortals to honor God like angels and, for a few golden moments, to see spirit and flesh, delight and labour, skill and worship, the natural and the supernatural, all fused into that unity they would have had before the Fall.
And this; CS Lewis on bad singers in church…
We shall also be aware that the power of shouting stands very low in the hierarchy of natural gifts, and that it would be better to learn to sing if we could. If anyone tryies to teach us we will try to learn. If we cannot learn, and this is desired, we will shut up.
– excerpts from C.S. Lewis, “On Church Music”
Howdy! I’m on a blog posting kick today it seems. Here’s a great quote I found and couldn’t help but share:
Good hymns are an immense blessing to the Church of Christ. I believe the last day alone will show the world the real amount of good they have done. They suit all, both rich and poor. There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly good hymn, which nothing else can produce. It sticks in men’s memories when texts are forgotten. It trains men for heaven, where praise is one of the principal occupations. Preaching and praying shall one day cease for ever; but praise shall never die. The makers of good ballads are said to sway national opinion. The writers of good hymns, in like manner, are those who leave the deepest marks on the face of the Church
“The law of prayer is the law of belief”
I’m learning how to pray. This latin phrase above says that the way we pray in public is both shaped by and will shape our theology. What does it say about our concept of God when we pray with ambiguous phrases such as “Lord, if it is your will…” or “we come to you asking if you would…”? These phrases point to a deficiency in our concept of God. Laurence Stookey, in his book Let the Whole Church Say Amen!, claims that “many of the filler phrases act as distancing devices.”
Surely I am guilty of this religious mumbling in attempt to buy time and sort out my thoughts while praying publicly, but now that I am aware of it, I am focusing on eliminating it from my prayers. Notice Jesus does not pray this way in the Lord’s prayer of Matthew 6:7. He does not say, “our Father, who is in Heaven, may your name be hallowed … Lord, if it is your will, may your kingdom come … etc …” He talks to God directly, with short salient phrases. Notice his verbs: “GIVE us this day… / FORGIVE us … / LEAD US NOT into … / DELIVER us from … ”
It is these aggressive verbs that shape prayer that believes in a powerful, influential God. I hope that in my own personal prayer and the occasions which I pray in public can be shaped by this idea. If we cannot earnestly demand something of God, perhaps we are demanding the wrong thing.
Thanks to Jeremie Begbie in his book “Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music” for revealing this to me:
How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?
– Psalm 137:4 KJV
He relates the verse to the power of music that empowers émigré communities to overcome cultural repression by holding their musical heritage close. While undoubtedly true (spirituals amidst slavery, national anthems amidst apartheid), I read it as a more general cry of longing for christians to return home. The reason music is so frequently debated in church communities is in (hopefully) honest pursuit of the answer to this question. How shall we sing? With gregorian chant? Hymnody? Christian rock? Is Rick Warren right when saying “God loves all kinds of music because he invented it all…if it is offered to God in spirit and truth, it is an act of worship.”
Begbie believes that Warren’s perspective implies that if all worship-full music is embedded with God-given integrity, it renders depth, quality (and I’ll add to that list, beauty) irrelevant to worship. I hope not!
“You may ask ‘If we cannot imagine a three-personal Being, what is the good of talking about Him?’ Well, there isn’t any good talking about Him. The thing that matters is being actually drawn into that three-personal life, and that may begin any time—tonight, if you like. What I mean is this. An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his [or her] prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if a Christian, he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also know that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach.
God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary Christian is saying his prayers.”
– C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity,” Book IV, Chapter 2.