One of the things that many people have missed about church over the past 15 months is the opportunity to sing together with others Christians.
It has been odd attending church in masks and being told not to sing out loud.
I have noticed that some people have found ways to hum quietly under their breath. Others have responded physically by swaying, clapping or raising their hands. The combination of words and music urge us to make some type of response. I am itching to sing out loud in church again!
Today at our church we took the opportunity to do what is now allowed, sing as a group gathered in the open air on church land.
What I really enjoyed about this was the freedom to sing out loud in the company of others. Singing with others and seeing others worshipping God was a refreshing and liberating experience.
What I have noticed about singing is that uniquely it is an activity in which everyone in the church is involved (apart from a couple of teenagers in the balcony, who are exchanging text messages!)
It is also an activity which engages all of who we are: body, mind and spirit all combined in singing God’s praise.
“Praise the Lord, my soul: all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” (Psalm 103:1)
Yes, singing God’s praises is something that has an impact on the whole person.
David Ford speaks about what is going on when we praise God: “Praise is an attempt to cope with the abundance of God’s love.”
Singing God’s praises is an attempt to connect all that I am to all that God is.
Christianity affirms that the body matters. We feel this when we stand up, fill our lungs with air, and lift up our voices in our whole-hearted response to God.
“Love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life my all.” (Isaac Watts)
This whole person response to God is not only something that shapes our singing. I also believe it has an impact on the act of preaching. Preaching a sermon is one of the most public and physical aspects of Christian ministry. Preachers do not only communicate with their voices, they communicate with their eyes, facial gestures, and hand and body movements. In this way the preacher embodies the message for the congregation to hear and see.
This has been a more difficult thing to accomplish with Coronavirus restrictions.
I am fascinated to read what Paul says about his approach to preaching: “God, whom I serve (worship) with my whole heart in the preaching of the gospel of his son…” (Romans 1:9)
Hughes Oliphant Old commenting on this passage writes: “The preaching and hearing of the word of God is in the last analysis worship, worship in its most profound sense.”
The word of God comes from the mind and heart of preachers, through mouths faithfully proclaiming the biblical message to a congregation ready to hear.
I have always been fond of that verse in Acts that describes the response that Peter has when he visits the house of the centurion Cornelius: “Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” (Acts 10:34)
“Here”. How wonderful it is to be present before God and one another, poised ready to hear the word become flesh.