The Noble Art of Music
“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits . . . A person who . . . does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God . . . does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.”
- Martin Luther, as quoted in Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan.
I’m jealous of those of you who can recall Scripture verbatim. I’ve never been good at memorizing sections of text. That’s partly due to being a conceptual thinker and an auditory learner, but it’s also largely a degree of laziness.
However, when put to verse and song, those great truths of God’s Word often come to mind at just the right time. When Emily, our middle daughter, was fighting for her little infant life as a heart-baby at Vanderbilt, I could hear “Fatherlike, He tends and spares us, yet our feeble frame he knows…” Or, in dark times of struggle with sin and discouragement, I’m reminded by God’s constant faithfulness with the verse, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come…”
Martin Luther, famous for his strong opinions, not only says that music is God’s creation, but also suggests that if we do not value it, we are failing in our humanness (that part of creation that should most closely reflect the image of our creator).
The hymns we sing have stood the test of time both in their content and their musicality. While the lyrics are sometimes cumbersome because of old language and the melodies don’t resemble modern music, the way they are woven together create lasting imprints of truth in our minds. Visit an Alzheimer’s memory unit at a nursing home, begin playing Amazing Grace, and see what happens. You will likely find a chorus of voices, some of which are otherwise non-communicative, singing deeply of repentance and salvation!
You have heard that our middle schoolers are about to begin their own Sunday school class that will focus on the history and theology of the hymns we sing in worship. This is why! It is the Session’s hope that this study will help these young men and women understand what they sing each week, appreciate why the verses were penned, and worship God in greater fullness as they sing hymns throughout their lives. Please pray for them as we begin this study, and also please pray for me as I attempt to guide them.
Lastly, please sing with heart, mind, and spirit on Sundays as we worship. We join with the hosts of heaven each week, and Jesus makes our voices perfect. Don’t hold back!
Grace and Peace,