I have zero musical talent and offer two personal stories as proof. As my 8th grade year drew to a close, our Catholic school did a special mass presentation. As the nun began our preparation, she was passing out the song books and paused in front of me. “No, I don’t think you will need one,” she remarked as she moved on and passed me by.
Fast forward in my life to the period just after I came to Christ. All the spiritual women in my church played the piano and sang. I wanted to be spiritual so I assumed that I needed to learn how to play the piano.
I started lessons. I practiced for hours. I tried hard. About the fourth week of lessons, the teacher paused in the middle of our time together. (Maybe I should have noticed the recurring pause.) She put her hands on mine and said, “Sherry, you are a woman of many talents. But this isn’t one of them.” My piano playing days were over.
However, perhaps because of my lack of ability, music is a very big deal to me. Almost every major spiritual decision I have made in my life was predicated on some piece of Godly music. The door to my heart and the path to my will is paved with musical notes.
So, this week, I want to urge us all to consider the importance of music in our spiritual lives. Martin Luther once remarked, “I would like to see the arts, especially music, used in the service of Him who gave and made them.” During a time when music was relegated to rather mindless chants, his chorale became one of the Reformation’s principle cultural monuments.
Apparently, Luther influenced Johann Sebastian Bach a great deal. And it was Bach that wrote the initials “JJ” (“Jesu, Jusa” or “Jesus, help me”) as he began each new piece of music. Imagine how many thousands of believers have been inspired by his work.
The Swedish Archbishop, Nathan Soderblom wrote, “The passion music which was created within the church and which experienced a new depth, a new richness and a new intensity in the sixteenth century, constitutes in its way the most important addition that has ever been made to the sources of revelation in the Old and New Testaments. If you ask about a fifth gospel, I do not hesitate to name the interpretation of salvation history as it reached its acme in Johann Sebastian Bach.”
I would not elevate Bach’s music to the level of inspired scripture, but it sure does encourage and stir my heart. But so do praise choruses and old hymns. I love to release my spirit as I hum though an old favorite chorus. And I equally enjoy thinking through the words used in a hymn. The turn of a phrase, the resonance of a term and the assurances captured in the repetition of a word all stir my soul and turn my face toward heaven.
This week, let’s make sure music is in a prominent place in all of our worship!