I grew up in a singing family. We were a perfect quartet. My father was a Barbershop Chorus baritone, my Mom sang alto, my sister (who has perfect pitch) handled the tenor notes, and I am a soprano. While other families counted cows and played license plate games on long trips, we sang. I must say that our four-part harmony on “I Love to Go A’Wandering” was pretty on point.
And yes, this was long before kids had screens and earphones to entertain them. It’s a shame that families don’t sing together much anymore.
Have you ever stopped to consider how much you have learned through songs? From learning your ABC’s to memorizing the continents and state capitols, songs play an important part in our education. And it is through singing that we understand much of our faith. Whether you are a traditional hymn singer or love to sway with contemporary praise music, you are being taught things about God every time you experience sacred music.
Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns, many of which are in the United Methodist hymnal. While brother John toiled away explaining theology in the form of sermons, Charles expressed his theology in poetic words, notes, crescendos, and harmonies.
Take a look at this verse from his hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling:”
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of Heav’n to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.
This teaches us many things. We learn that God’s love excels over any other kind of love. We learn that love was sent from heaven. We ask for this love to be fixed in us. We discover that Jesus, the Joy of Heaven, is all compassion and unbounded love. We invite the Lord to bring salvation to our trembling hearts. That is a LOT of good theology, and it’s only the first verse!
Our passage today comes from Colossians. In these two short verses, Paul lifted up the value of singing our faith as a way of learning God’s word:
Colossians 3:16-17 (Common English Bible)
16 The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.
As we seek to know God better, we shouldn’t overlook the wisdom that comes from the psalms, hymns, and praise music. There is a difference between head-learning and heart-learning. While it is a worthwhile endeavor to master the names, places, and timelines of scripture, it is just as important to feel and experience the movement of the spirit through its lyrical passages as well. God seeks not only to inform us through the word, but also to transform us. True wisdom is heart-deep.
The invitation is to sing or listen to a praise song, hymn, piece of classical music, or just hum “Jesus Loves Me” as you go about a simple task today. Let us explore how music can bring the word of Christ to live richly in our spirits.
And may we do everything we have learned in the name of Jesus, thanking God for all of our blessings.