In his letter to the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul wants to encourage the people he loves, even though he cannot be with them. His words are full of encouragement and warning. I’ve often wondered how the church reacted when they heard his words. Did they audibly sigh upon hearing his salutation … “Ahhh …we love you too, Paul!” Did they gasp at his warnings?
When he tells them to sing Spirit-filled songs rather than songs because they’re filled with spirits, did they get upset? As a church musician, I have often quoted from Ephesians 5:
“… but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s point here is not to say sing one type of music over another, but rather, sing to the Lord! As we continue to be apart, we need to – more than ever before – make music in our hearts. Singing together cannot happen right now, at least not in the way in which we have become accustomed. Perhaps we hum along as we watch the service. Perhaps we sing an old hymn with loved ones around the piano. Perhaps we joyfully belt out a song of praise as we cut grass in the backyard … ok, that last one might have been me. Regardless of the how, what, when, and where … we must continue to sing and give thanks to God.
As a singer, I never had a strong desire to be a recording artist. Singing in front of a live audience was always more gratifying. The feedback from listeners was immediate and evident. Even when perfection was not attained (it never really is), I knew I could keep singing, finish strong, win them over with a smile. On the few occasions where I have recorded something, I have rarely gone back to listen to my own work – I’m my own worst critic.
Many years ago, a friend asked me to sing a song on an album he was working on. It was a simple Christmas record, one that he was producing as a gift for others. Our goal during the recording session was a “live” feel … the instruments and vocals were recorded together, rather than with individual playback.
What that meant for me was … well, “don’t mess this up, Tim!” With each take, I would often think to myself, “I could have done that better.” But, after a few takes, the recording engineer gave a thumbs up and I was all done. Had I given my best? Would anyone like the song? Well, I had prepared as best I could …
I sang with passion … I gave my all. So, that was as far as I could go. Ensuring that someone might actually like the song was out of my control. As we worship together over live-stream, I often feel these same anxieties. Is anyone singing along? Did I choose the right song to tell God’s story? How does my hair look? 🙂
Needless to say, I don’t always get it right. But, as we continue to seek new ways to worship together, I assure you that we will seek God first in all that we do. Our songs, whether sung together or apart, will be offerings of praise to God, creating space for the Spirit of God to fill and sustain us.
I leave you with two things. First, you may be curious about what song I recorded those years ago. Well, it was “White Christmas,” and I assure you – Bing sang it better. But (and this is the second and final thing) I am strengthened, encouraged, and challenged by these words of Fred Pratt Green: When in our music God is glorified, and adoration leaves no room for pride, It is as though the whole creation cried Alleluia!
May the peace of Christ be with you.