by Dick Foth on September 07, 2022
It's been said that "Words are the language of the mind and music is the language of the soul." I believe it.
What would our world be like without music?
Three years ago, when several of us were exploring future teaching themes for Timberline, the word PLAYLIST popped up. As an idea, it was intriguing.
If there was a word that brings music to mind in our high-tech cyber age, it is PLAYLIST. You know. Those songs embedded in a phone and carried in a pocket or purse? Reachable in five seconds. Songs you love to hear? Or like to sing? Or wish you could sing?
Human beings have music built-in. It is how our brains work to help us remember things and people and places and moments. It is an imprint. From a mother's lullaby to our dying moment, we express it in music.
My phone's PLAYLIST reflects my tastes:
Tommy Walker, a worship leader, is there, who just draws the congregation in with full-bore gospel. Allison Krause with bluegrass and country themes. Andrea Bocelli, who does opera or pop in a soaring tenor. Sara Groves, rooted in gospel and clearly contemporary. Powerful symphonies. A clarinetist, and a few guitarists. Michael W. Davis on the violin and David Talbott on the piano. The Eagles singing "Desperado". The rich baritone of Randy Travis with "Forever and Ever Amen". The haunting melody of "Ashokan Farewell". And the lofty power of Chris Tomlin leading us in "Indescribable" and "How Great Is Our God", to remind me of who I am and what I am for.
Quite simply, a playlist reflects our interests, our personalities, and our histories. It is that cluster of notes and words and instruments that has the ability to touch the deep of our souls and lift our spirits.
Take a moment, and look at THAT TRUTH in your journey of faith. Beyond that, look at it in THE journey of faith: the Bible.
The BOOK has a spine and it's called a "story". About half of the entire Bible is a story. Some prophetic books are mixed in, along with large pieces of devotion and reflective writings. Then, after Jesus and his disciples' stories in the New Testament comes a group of first-century letters.
Threading its way through all of that writing is music: a melody line that ties things together. Calls to worship. Songs of victory. Songs in memory of great moments. Songs of lament. Proclamations of praise. Even embryonic creeds apparently put to melody.
Beyond the 150 songs in the Old Testament, which we call the Psalms, scholars have identified at least three dozen passages that no doubt were sung by people of faith, like John 1:1-18 and Philippians 2:5-11.
I find music central early in the Old Testament. Genesis 4 to be precise. Three brothers and their life works are noted there. Jabal is the first—"the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock". Jubal is the second—"the father of those who play the lyre and the pipe". And, third is Tubal—"the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron."
Amazing! We have ranching on one side with industry on the other—and music right in the middle!
That shouldn't surprise us, really. If we are made in the image of God, it follows that we reflect his capacities and He is the ultimate Singer:
The Lord your God is with you. The Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
What better way to love God back in His way than to put our praise to melodies?
What's profound is that when we do that, put words and worship to melody, we automatically connect to each other. Neuroscientists have shown that when we sing together, our brains produce oxytocin, the trust hormone. Something unique happens in us that draws us together even more closely than just standing next to each other.
Boy, could I use THAT! After the past few years of fractures in communities and culture, I want—I need—to see a larger picture. A point of reference that brings hope. The right song, sung with brothers and sisters who follow the same Lord, calls our attention to something more. Something larger. A song can lift our eyes.
Let's dream of us, the people of God, lifting our voices as one to the Most High God in praise and song. Not only singing together the old and familiar but the new and inviting.
Let's understand that in some deep way, we connect with God's people around the world when we sing praises to him. Music and worship are the connective tissues for the family of God at any hour of any day from Melbourne to Mumbai. From Boston to Bali. From Fort Collins to Frankfurt.
Worship with music is more than important. It is crucial in this day. It is not just that we sing or do our best to sing. It is that we get to try it TOGETHER.
But you say, "I can't carry a tune in a bucket!" That's perfectly alright. Let those around you carry the tune and you savor the truth of the lyrics.
Why is worship embedded in music so meaningful? It has been said so well in these words: "Singing is the way the church reminds itself of who it is and Who it worships."
What started as an idea-in-passing has deepened into a profound truth for me that, I confess, I had given only modest attention before. What began three years ago as a moment of interest has grown into a teaching series beginning this coming weekend, September 10-11, and going through the weekend of November 19-20.
I can hardly wait. What fun! What joy! What a sound! An immersion in the Word and music has the possibility, I believe, of being a game-charnger in more ways than one.
Our times in Timberline's "Living Room" will be creative and unique. Let's explore together the PLAYLIST of Scripture and its grand themes—obedience, bonding, encouragement, hope-in-suffering, celebration, grace and truth, revolution, and eternity.
Many voices have spoken into this series, and I invite you to join them by praying for these weekends and standing on tiptoe for the joy of being TOGETHER with a song in our hearts!
Dick Foth here, dreaming a dream, preparing my heart, and — as old as they are — warming up my vocal cords!
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