Singing To One Another

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Tony Reinke:

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs . . . Eph.5:18-19

David Ford, Self and Salvation: Being Transformed (Cambridge: 1999), 122, 125:

Drunkenness is a practice that incapacitates people for responsible use of time in line with ‘the will of the Lord’ (5.17). Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, by contrast, enables a ‘sober intoxication’ which attunes the whole self — body, heart and mind — to a life attentive to others and to God. It is a practice of the self as physical as drinking — and as habit-forming. One of the main habits formed is that of alertness. . . .

It is striking that there is encouragement to the members to practice ‘addressing one another’ in song. This is part of facing each other in the community. One way of understanding it is that one sings a song to another who does not sing. But it can also and more naturally be taken to be about one of the obvious features of psalms and hymns: a large proportion of them do not speak to God directly but address other people or oneself ‘Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard’ (Ps. 66.8); ‘O come, let us sing to the Lord’ (Ps. 95.1); ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is Within me, bless his holy name!’ (Ps. 103.1).

For a community of worship, this coming together before God in song is the fullest facing of all, explicitly acknowledging the reality of which they are all part, and adding their energies to enhance it. The specific contribution of music to this building up of community in worship includes its encouragement of alertness to others, immediate responsiveness to changes in tone, tune and rhythm, and sharing in the confidence that can come from joint singing. Singing together embodies joint responsibility in which each singer waits on the others, is attentive with the intention of serving the common harmony.

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I am currently serving churches and colleges as a bible teacher, overseas and in the UK.

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