- Eldon Peterson
Music For All The Saints
Music is a wonderful means of communication. However, music is a bit like ice cream; while coming in a variety of flavors, rarely will one flavor please everyone. This fact has often resulted in disagreements in churches; often, this could be easily overcome by focusing on their shared heritage rather than emphasizing differences.
At our church, we have a “blended style of worship.” This means that we incorporate a mixture of hymns and modern worship songs. A pastor of a large church once told me that he believed that this was an error, for in the end no one would be pleased – but I disagreed. I believe it is healthy for us to celebrate our faith together without being distracted by preferences.
The historic hymns of faith testify of great truths that are sometimes lacking in the newer songs. At the same time, many of the newer songs also express deep spiritual truths while incorporating a contemporary sound. It is important for us to recognize the value not only the importance of the flavor we prefer but also value the traditions of others.
If you visit churches in our community you will find as many varied styles as there are people. But, if you will listen, I believe that you can find common biblical truths being proclaimed; hopefully not only in the singing but from the pulpit as well. The importance of music in the church is seen in its biblical proclamation more than anything else.
For example, some churches use a Psalter in their worship; the Psalter is a collection of the Psalms put to music. While my tradition does not, I can agree with their observation, “The Psalms, being the spiritual biography of the child of God, speak to every situation in which the Christian might find himself or herself. Much profit can be gained simply by reading and contemplating the words of The Psalter. They instruct and teach us, warn and exhort us, and comfort and cheer us. They contain our confessions of dependence upon God, and our prayers to Him that He bless us. They are of great value and benefit, for they bring God to us, and us to God.”
There is great benefit in learning from the traditions of others. Churches sharing a common biblical heritage have more in common than not. For example, every church using hymnals will almost certainly have all of these hymns: Amazing Grace; How Great Thou Art; Holy, Holy, Holy; It is Well; Great Is Thy Faithfulness; Praise to the Lord the Almighty; Be Thou My Vision; All Creatures Of our God and King; All Hail the Power of Jesus Name; Blessed Assurance. Songs spanning from the 6th century to the 1900’s – these songs are timeless not because of their music but because of their message. The same is true with many of the contemporary songs.
The believers call to worship the Lord in singing is found in the Psalms and in the life of the Jews. Psalm 91 tell us, "O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms" (1,2). We also find that as pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem they would sing the Song of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) declaring their hope in the Lord. For example, Psalm 121 says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
In the Psalms, God’s people sing songs in both good times and bad. In the church, we should sing songs of hope and promise at both weddings and funerals. As Paul encouraged the church in Ephesus, “be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:18b-20).
Singing should never be a point of contention in Christ’s church. God calls his people to stand united to declare their common hope in Christ our Savior; the tune is unimportant. My hope is that this Thanksgiving season you will take the opportunity to give thanks to God for everything in song and word and deed as you remember all that is yours in Christ.