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Singing For God
June 1, 1980

St. Paul's United Methodist Church


What a glorious way to praise God with the singing and the voices of children! Some time ago, one of our members was lamenting and bemoaning all this emphasis we're doing on church music. Another member said, “Well, what do you expect when you get a musical minister?” That's what happens when you have two musical ministers! What can you do? An interest in church music just can't be controlled. I suppose, for example, that if your ministers were into golf, we would have Carl Hansen sponsoring golf tournaments and have early worship services down at the clubhouse, which may not be too bad an idea. 

But, there is much more to music in the church than the bias and the prejudice of the clergy. As our scripture text mentioned today from Paul's letter to Ephesians, a way to be filled with the Holy Spirit, a way to give thanks to God, a way to experience the joy of Christian fellowship is by singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart. That's from the fifth chapter of Ephesians. Music has a power, perhaps the most powerful and influential of all the arts. Look at the many movements that have been accompanied by singing and have captured the loyalty of the participants through singing. The French Revolution sang “La Marsellaise”. The Communists sang “The Internationale”. The Yankees sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the rebels sang “Dixie”. These songs still stir the heart. And the Christian church came singing down through the ages. The followers of Martin Luther sang through the streets of Germany, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and the Protestant Reformation could not be stopped. Charles Wesley wrote 6500 hymns, and the Methodist movement could not be stopped for its singing. The spiritual awakenings, the great revivals through history have all been accompanied with singing. Our hymnal reflects the hymns from those various eras and periods. 

Paul said to the church in Ephesus, “Sing,  make melody in your heart.” Experience the joy of Christian fellowship by singing. He said singing would do two things. Singing is a means to be filled with the Holy Spirit and singing is a means of giving thanks to God. First, be filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul exhorted. He contrasts darkness and light, he contrasts the evil world with Christian Fellowship. And he said true joy is found not in getting drunk with wine, not in being drugged with wine, but by being filled with the Holy Spirit. He said, “Sing, sing with all your heart.” Singing with all your heart is a means by which God can move in your life. I believe singing music is one of the vehicles God uses to pour his spirit into our lives. Certainly in my life, some of my most deepest experiences with God have been in and through music. When you're down, sing; when you're up, sing; when you're angry, when you're hurt, when you're discouraged, when you're lonely, sing. Sing in the bathtub, sing in the car, sing on the streets, sing! You will be surprised at the results. Sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Sing “Nobody knows the trouble I've seen but Jesus,” or “There is a Balm in Gilead” or “Alleluiah, Thank You, Jesus.” God can move in your life through your singing when it's with all your heart. 

And when we're together, sing. A hymn fest, a song fest can turn a gathering into an experience of Christian Fellowship. God's Spirit can move. “Sing” says Paul because it's a vehicle of being filled with the Holy Spirit and secondly, sing to give thanks to God. A way to give thanks and express gratitude to God is by bringing to God your music, your gift. Notice in this passage, how he emphasizes the word “to”—sing to God, not just sing about God, not just sing for the Lord, but sing to God. When we sing the hymns and the songs in our worship service, to whom are you singing? To whom do you sing? Do you sing to the person sitting in front of you in the next two rows so they can turn around and say, “Who's got that beautiful voice?” Is that why you sing? Or perhaps do you not sing because you do not want the people in front to hear you, and you don't want to get embarrassed by having them turn around and ask, “Is somebody gargling?” Well, phooey on those around you. You are singing to God. When you sing hymns and spiritual songs, sing them to the Lord. And if anybody else wants to listen in, that's their problem. 

The choir sings to God. They don't sing to you and me. They sing to God on our behalf to enrich our worship experience. We are not here to be entertained. It's much better on television. We do not come to worship to be entertained. We come to bring our thanksgiving to God. Our worship is a gift. 

Worship is like a drama. There's a stage with actors doing their best. The ministers, the choir, the organist and the acolytes are all on stage, yes. But, so are all of you. You are not the audience in this drama. God is the audience. All we do in a worship service is for God. What you bring to the worship service, the way you participate, the way you give, the way you sing, the way you pray, is your offering to God, the way you give thanks to God. So what kind of a gift do you bring? How do you sing? How do you participate? It's your gift to God. Is it shabby? Or is it the best and wholehearted you can do. What kind do you bring? 

Some people are so unappreciative, they only worship when they feel like it. They only bring their gift of thanksgiving when they feel like it. But, consider all that you are, all that you have and how God has blessed you. The least you can do is come to worship and bring your gifts to God—your singing, your praying and your offering. 

Today, our service of commitment and dedication is really enriched. In these next few moments, we invite you to offer your life to God, offer your tithes and your offerings, offer your prayers to God. We offer our music to God as we recognize and dedicate our choirs. And very beautifully today, we even offer a child to God. We offer a life through the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Will the acolytes please bring the water. We are privileged today to baptize Kyle Francis de Rossi, son of Gary and Catherine. Would you come forward please?

© 1980 Douglas I. Norris