Have you ever wondered when we humankind first discovered that we could sing? There is no way of telling, but it would have surely been from the beginning of our time on earth because archeology has unearthed all sorts of musical type instruments made from bones and wood that go back to the beginning.
Some parents might say they think that adorable little girl or boy began to sing almost before he or she began to talk. No one seemed to need to teach them how to do it. They made it up as they went along as they were playing and going about whatever else they were doing.
There may be some who say they don’t sing or “can’t sing” but that would really usually mean they don’t do it very well so you would never hear them doing it even if you slipped outside the door of their shower. But not doing it well doesn’t mean that one cannot do it even if they prefer (or even others prefer) they don’t do it.
It isn’t uncommon to see a child create a makeshift microphone when they are singing and playing, and most do so without shyness as long it isn’t in front of a lot of people or on a stage with lights blinding them. A bit later some will discover the lights, the audience, and the stage are exactly the place they want to sing for the sheer enjoyment of it.
The experience of worship involves more than singing, but when we hear the word worship most all of us will immediately relate it to an experience that includes music and singing. So, when the issue of places of worship meeting during the pandemic came up it was no surprise that when singing was going to be banned because of the fear of spreading the virus, most of us were more than a little upset.
“There are songs everywhere in scripture. The people of God sing. They express exuberance in realizing the majesty of God and the mercy of Christ, the wholeness of the reality and their new-found ability to participate in it. Songs proliferate. Hymns gather the voices of men, women, and children into century-tiered choirs.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
We sing alone. We sing as families. We sing in ensembles and choirs and great gatherings. Something about the sound of the blending of music, voices, and instruments evokes deep connection within us and emotion stirs within our hearts, minds, and spirits before echoing in our memory long after the singing stops.
But if worship sings (and it does) what do we say singing is?
“Singing is speech intensified and expanded. Song takes the natural rhythms and timbre of speech and develops its accents and intonations into music.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
When I read Peterson’s description, I was aware that was the best description ever! He added a few lines later as an explanation of why we must sing when we worship.
“When persons of faith become aware of who God is and what he does, they sing. The songs are irrepressible.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
One of the sweet memories in my life is the sound of my dad singing when we were standing beside each other in church. He would have told you that my mother was the one who was the singer. She was involved in singing in a trio and quartet and directed our children’s choir and certainly did a lot of singing, but it was my gentle humble dad’s melodious voice that blessed me and I can hardly wait to hear what it sounds like in heaven when we are all gathered around the throne of God.
I was blessed to grow up with those memories and in a family who loved music. I married a man who did as well, and the tradition went on to our son and daughter. Now new memories are made as our grandchildren sing and take their gifts to new levels.
It seems clear that God intends we sing and in scripture in multiple places it says that if we do not praise Him and sing, the rocks themselves will cry out. If we look at the closing scenes of scripture in Revelation 4 and 5, we see that all creation is singing. And what results from that worship?
“The end result of the act of worship is that our lives are turned around. We come to God with a history of nay-saying, of rejecting, and being rejected. At the throne of God we are immersed in God’s yes, a yes that silences our noes and calls forth an answering yes in us. God, not the ego, is the center. God is not someone around whom we make calculating qualifications, a little yes here, a little no there. In worship we “listen to the voice of Being” and become answers to it. The self is no longer the hub of reality, as sin seduces us into supposing.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
Yes! Of course, we must sing in worship and when we do, it honors the One who is song and music, and we are changed by it.