Music and Truth
For ten Sundays I have looked across a nearly empty sanctuary and sung into a camera lens 75 feet away. This would be awkward even if it were a TV studio. But knowing what I know, and singing what I sing, it’s beyond awkward. It’s painful. I know that all those empty seats are supposed to hold my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that I should hear the rumble of fellowship; family reuniting, laughing, ministering, praying. And I know that those voices should join together in song as we testify to God’s glory, His resurrected Son, and His mercy toward us. This is the beautiful marriage of music and truth that happens when we gather.
Music was created by God. The tools we use to make music were given to us by Him. I reject the category of Christian music because it’s redundant. From time eternal, music was designed to proclaim the glory of our Creator God. All secular expressions of music have been appropriated from their God-given design. When the gathered body of Christ sings together in the local church, it is reclaiming the Maker’s melodies. What we do is not some mere shadow of true art. It is a room of sub-creators, under the authority of The Creator, using the gift of art as it was intended. In his book Echoes of Eden, Jerram Barrs writes,
“Art needs no justification. It is simply a gift of God, part of his created reality, to be received like any other gift—with gratitude. We must not say that ‘art is for art’s sake,’ for this is Romantic heresy. Art is to be tied to the reality of God’s creation and to our human calling to live as his image bearers.”
How I miss that room full of image bearers and the art they make! Some of you didn’t know you were artists, did you? Indeed you are some of my favorite artists. And I long for us to sing together again.
Even more important than the art we make, our singing is about a testimony of truth! The words that pass over our lips, some of them penned centuries ago, tell the gospel story. Among us in every church service are people who need to hear that gospel. Perhaps they are in darkness and do not yet know the love of Jesus. They need to hear us sing. Even our brothers and sisters, fellow believers, do not all come to church in the same spiritual condition. Some are suffering loss, others enduring financial hardship, or perhaps battling depression. They need to hear us sing! In truth, every one of us needs to hear every one of us sing the gospel. Our voices combine and testify, “He is real! And He loves us!”
When this pandemic first forced our services online, I optimistically, albeit naively, day-dreamed about our first Sunday back. I basically envisioned one big party. It became clear in the following weeks that our return would have to be more cautious and happen in phases. This weekend, we will enter the first phase and begin to resume worshiping in person. If you are able to attend, I want to encourage you to sing with joy. Don’t miss the blessed gift of congregational worship that we have been denied for ten consecutive weeks. It is a treasure and we should participate humbly and gratefully, even from behind masks. If you are unable to attend, or just choosing to wait a few more weeks, hear me say that you are no less a part of this body and its worship. The Spirit that empowers us to worship at 1950 Leestown Road is the same Spirit that will be present with you at your home and uniting us to you. We trust your discernment as you decide what is safe and wise for you and/or your family.
Wherever you are on Sunday, praise the Lord. Behold His glory. Respond in humble adoration and full submission. Confess your sins and rest in the peace of our Savior who paid your debt. And sing! Our worship is not thwarted by COVID-19. Our plans change, our rhythms are adjusted, but our Savior is on the throne.