What makes a movie scary or sad? The music behind the actions helps us understand what we should be feeling. Music can emotionally direct you to feel in many different ways. This is great for in the car or at the movies, but what about church? Why do we sing in church?
Music in Times of Sorrow and Joy
When I think of the role of music and emotion in the Christian life, I am reminded of my own experience with the passing of my grandpa. Halfway through my high school career, he passed away after fighting hard against cancer.
On the day of his funeral, we sang LSB 537, "Beautiful Savior," around his gravesite. To be there, in the clouds and rain, surrounded by my family, listening to my grandpa's sons sing in perfect harmony with a surprising amount of vehemence, was beautiful.
Maybe you've had a similar experience; a certain hymn or song struck you at just the right moment, reminding you of God's steadfast love.
Now, when I hear the opening lines of this hymn, I feel sorrow because I miss my grandpa. He was an important figure in my life, and years later, I still feel his absence. However, with that sorrow comes joy.
The second stanza says, "Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer. He makes our sorr'wing spirit sing" (LSB 537, st. 2). I'm reminded that even when faced with death, Jesus paid the ultimate price, and for that, my sorrowing spirit can sing with vehemence along with my father and uncles.
Music in the Life of a Christian
God has blessed us with the ability to feel, but faith is not just feeling. What's the proper place of emotions in the life of a Christian? Music rooted in God's Word can be used to help us to express the many emotions we feel as we pray, praise and give thanks to God.
Hymns in the hymnal are often built off prayers from Scripture. The liturgy is full of Scripture passages that can be used as prayer and song during church or at home. When we sing them, we are reminded of God's promises.
Music in the Bible
People of the Bible used music as a tool to pray and an outlet for the whole spectrum of human emotion. David wrote Psalm after Psalm to express to God his feelings of thankfulness, fear, anger, and complete anguish. Solomon and the tribes of Israel broke into song after putting the Ark in the temple (2 Chronicles 5:13). Mary, when visiting Elizabeth, offered the Lord a beautiful song of praise (Luke 1:46-55). Paul and Silas shouted songs of praise to God while they were in prison (Acts 16:25). The book of Revelation is full of songs of praise to God for what He has done.
By looking at our Biblical ancestors, we are shown one powerful way to worship: music. God has given us many talents and gifts, one of which is music. We can use music to spread the Gospel to those unaware of God's great love.
Music in the Church
Music sounds nice. It's good background noise. But it's much more. It helps us emotionally and spiritually, giving us direction in feeling and how we can worship God.
Why have music during a church service? Because music fills a void that our words won't. What we cannot always say, we can sing. Music, based off God's Word, brings a congregation together and enables them to pray, praise, and give thanks to God in a powerful way.
As Paul writes in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (ESV). Let's use music for more than just sound. Let's bring music into our lives, at home and in the church, and use it to speak to our Heavenly Father at all times, for all things.
Need help understanding and using music as prayer and praise?
Lutheran Service Book is a great resource for daily devotion.