There is a service here in Chicago called Song Finch. For $200, you can describe a person or a relationship, jot in some memories and details on a form; and within twenty-four hours, the artists will compose and record a song for you. For another $200, they will go to the doorstep of the home and sing it twice as a birthday or anniversary gift.
We have a song writing service here in the church, and its’ called the hymnal. Over the centuries, people of faith have been inspired to give voice to our highest thoughts and articulate our most sublime emotions. In composing melodies and hymn tunes to piano and organ, our souls have been inspired and guided over the centuries to give praise the One who is the source of all life.
The words of hymns are enduring—because the experiences that inspired them come from God. The melodies of hymns continue– because the composers were inspired by God to write them.
Which means that when we sing, the hymns have the ability to carry us up to God; and bring God down to us. Hymns “permeate our souls with the timeless veracities of scripture. Hymns help us praise God. Hymns enable us to pray. And hymns connect us with generations long gone.” (Robert Morgan)
From Judaism, we inherit a singing faith. As the pilgrims were hiking up to Jerusalem, they sang. When they entered the courts of the temple, they sang of praise. On the high holy days, they blew the shofar, and sang lamentations for sin. When the Torah portion was unveiled, the sang and danced some more. David composed many of his psalms while strumming the harp and lyre.
Jesus surely sang the Torah and chanted the prophetic scriptures and blessings. On the Mount of Olives, after the last supper, the disciples departed by singing a hymn. Paul admonished the Colossians church to “sing psalms and spiritual hymns to each other” filled with the spirit of thanksgiving.
Each Sunday, we enter into a living tradition of inspired music and worship.
“Music precedes religion” said Whitehead, and “without music, religion is too abstract.”
Before we come to our beliefs about God and the church, someone has been singing to us.
Before we ever form words, we absorb the words and sounds of people who sung to us in the cradle.
Before we ever understand religion or develop our theology, we sing songs like Jesus Loves Me and Silent Night.
We absorb the love of God through the inspiration of the words and sounds of people who sing to us, and sing with us.
Who sang to you your first songs? Who taught you the songs of faith? (It’s probably the same person who taught you how to pray . . . .)
Irenaeus wrote in the second century that to sing is to pray twice.
When people tell me that they can’t sing or carry a tune, I know it’s true. I encourage them to sing out anyway! If singing is a prayer, it doesn’t matter what you sound like, if your heart is true, your singing will hit the mark.
If you can affirm the words of the hymn, whatever sound you make adds a perfect note.
The inspiration of music connects us to God and connect us to each other. Music taps the presence of God in the midst of God’s people; and helps build a sense of community.
Paul wrote to a fledgling church in Colossae to encourage the people to sing to each other in psalms and spiritual hymns of worship, with a thankful heart.
I hope that we realize what a sacred thing we do when we gather as a church to sing songs of praise. The hymns we sing for the glory of God bind us together and connect us to each other. The inspiration of music, in part, is what makes us family.
Of all the hymns chosen for this Hymn Sing Sunday, “How Great Thou Art” was uniformly chosen as the favorite hymn.
Many years ago, my parents and I were traveling in Connemara region of Ireland. As we drove around the hills and small mountains, there was no radio reception. 0ne afternoon, my dad started singing the old hymns we learned growing up in the church.
I Love to Tell the Story
My faith Look Up to Thee
Be Still My Soul
Sweet Hour of Prayer
I was driving, my father was in the passenger’s seat, my mom in the backseat, it was a golden family moment, we were harmonizing and singing together, just like in church, driving on the wrong side of the narrow country roads of Ireland.
And my dad said, “you know my favorite hymn is How Great Thou Art”. And so we sang it, all three or four verses . . .
Just as we finished singing the last verse, we arrived at the top of the mountain, where we could see the ocean and the cliffs, the waves and the coast. I pulled the car over, and we sat in silence, seeing and affirming the greatness and glory of God.
It was a spiritual high-point, a moment that couldn’t have been scripted or planned.
Little did I know that a year later, my father would die suddenly from a fall; and a year later to the date, my mom would die suddenly from a stroke.
But the sound of our voices singing still carries me; and the memory of our voices blending together still sustains me.
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee: How Great Thou art! How great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee: How great thou art! How great thou art!
All our lives are a hymn tune and a composition of words on the greatness and goodness of God, to the glory of God.
While we have life and breath, may we sing praises to the One from whom all blessings flow.