Here are some thoughts about music and worship. I have edited this since it was first posted.
Some of the material comes from earlier pieces I have posted.I have been involved with music since I was in the 7th grade when I began playing in the junior high school band. I played in the band during junior high, high school and for one year in college. After that I began singing in the church choir; something I still do today.
Through all of this, I gained and maintained an appreciation for music. I appreciate the workmanship and beauty of a Bach cantata and Mozart oratorio as much as I appreciate the guitar work of Eric Clapton. And I can hear and feel the power and presence of God in a modern jazz piece as much as I do in a traditional choral piece or organ composition (from “A Rock and Roll Revival”).
When I was growing up, there was a television show called “American Bandstand.” It was a show that introduced teenagers to the new music of their time and gave bands and individual artists of the era their start.
During one segment in the show, two of the teenagers who came to the show would be invited to rate a new record. Typical comments might be that the song had a good beat or that it was easy to dance to. It was an expression as much of how the music felt as it sounded.
The Psalms are the Bible’s songs. They were written as a way to express sorrow and pain and to celebrate the joy and happiness of life. They were the hymns of the early Church.
We sometimes think that church music has to be unique and special but why cannot it be rock and roll? If a song opens our heart and mind to God, what difference does it make what the source might be?
Each one of us can identify songs and hymns, both traditional and not so traditional, that touch our hearts and move our souls, much as the early Psalms did. These are the songs and music from the heart that bring us closer to God.
When I first heard the group Jefferson Airplane sing “Good Shepherd”, I marveled at the words of the song and how they seemed to echo words from the Gospel of John (John 21: 1 – 19). In looking at the history of the piece, I discovered that the rock and roll piece that I heard evolved from a mid-20th century blues-based folk song. And that folk song had evolved from a 19th century Gospel hymn with roots in an early 1800s hymn written by John Adam Grande, a Methodist preacher from Tennessee.
Jorma Kaukonen, the guitarist for Jefferson Airplane, who wrote the modern arrangement said that it was music like this that opened the doorway to the Scriptures for him. As he noted, he found that he loved the Bible without knowing it (see “To Feed The Spirit As Well As The Body”).
Mickey Hart, the drummer for the Grateful Dead said,
“To fall in love is to fall in rhythm.” It is love for each other by which we know we are followers of Jesus, the ever-attentive shepherd. In the face of societal rules and attitudes that strive to foster “everyone for themselves,” they will know we are Christians by our love. How can we listen to the music that draws us together, “falling in rhythm” with neighbor to build up the whole?
(see “The Music We Hear“)
My wife, who grew up listening to Elvis Presley, will tell you that it was the Gospel music that he sang that provided her with an understanding of and a deep love for those who suffered. And it was hymns such as “Lift High The Cross” that helped affirm her belief in God and Jesus as her Savior. She will also tell you that another song, recorded by several groups and individuals, “He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother” had a profound impact on her and her relationship with others and God.
We find our connection with God in many ways. Some will find it through the spoken word, others through the written word and sometimes if comes from music that speaks to our heart.