Wednesday, June 19, 2013
THE GOOD OLD DAYS (Nehemiah 12)
Nehemiah 12 has to be one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, in the way it demonstrates the way music was central in temple worship, just as music plays an important in worship services today. Look at the musical abundance mentioned: two choirs, trumpets, cymbals, harps, lutes performing both thanksgiving hymns and songs.
For you see (have I mentioned this before?), I was a church musician long before I was a writer. I played piano in church from the time I was twelve onward earned my bachelors degree in sacred music. (Few people know what B.S.M. refers to, LOL.)
I love writing but it's hard work. Music streams straight from my heart. It bypasses the barriers I erect between myself and God and goes straight to my heart. In the months following my divorce, I sat in the balcony of my church, unable to stop crying while the congregation sang choruses such as As the Deer Panteth. I've had a similar experience here at the nursing home, when church group come and sing hymns. Our services here include no preaching but hymn after precious hymn. Many times I am unable to sing, my heart lifting in worship (I talked about this a couple of weeks ago, when the hymn "Whiter Than Snow" touched me in a new way.)
Hmm, I'm one of those people crying during a time of joy.
The technological, electronic age has brought a resurgence of church music with it. We have contemporary Christian music available 24 hours a day. I can name a few of my favorites: Points of Grace, Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman.
But as a student of the sacred music tradition, I sometimes fear we are losing music of the ages, songs from Martin Luther and Charles Wesley and Frances Crosby, as well as newer ones like Andre Crouch and John Peterson. However, I acknowledge that is a preference and an opinion and believe that the best of the past will survive.
The returning exiles enjoyed much the same variety, suggested by the differentiation between "thanksgiving hymns" and "songs." Even Paul talked about "psalms, hymns, and songs of the spirit" in Colossians 3:16. Boy, can you imagine what arguments started when gentiles brought their music to a Jewish worship service?
The Israelites reveled in reviving the past. The writer says, "The priests and Levites. . .had done everything so well, conducted the worship of their God . . . in a way that would have made David and his son Solomon proud. That's the way it was done in the olden days, the days of David and Asaph, when they had choir director for singing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God." (Nehemiah 12:44-46, MSG) And let's not forget the instruments mentioned. (As a pianist, I appreciate that addition, my "instrument of ten fingers" (Psalm 33:2)
At the next worship service, we attend, let us join in song, which has been a part of worship since the earliest days of man (Genesis 4:21)