WHEN YOU SING YOU PRAY TWICE
This is a short sermon for Classical Music Sunday at Resurrection. Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon on Sunday, August 10, 2008, at both services.
Dear Friends in Christ,
“You sure do sing a lot” is one of the comments that we have received from both visitors and folks in the new member classes. That can be said of Lutheran churches in general, but it is particularly true here at Resurrection. Have you ever thought of why we sing so much? St. Augustine, the well-known 5th century bishop from North Africa said, “Those who sing pray twice.” What could he have meant?
I think I know: often when you sing you “feel it” more; the tune stays with you and you are easily reminded of the words and thus you prayer longer. Our children who attended Vacation Bible Camp know this well. Parents report that at home the children are still singing those songs they enjoyed so much 2 weeks ago.
Sung praises seem to be God’s favorite form of prayer. Psalm 100 instructs us to come into God’s presence with singing, making melody to the Lord and we are to enter God’s court in song. Don’t miss this statistic: Between the Old Testament and the New Testament, we are told 254 times to make music before the Lord. The Book of the Revelation portrays heaven as continually filled with the songs of saints, to which our own voices are added when we pray twice. So we sing because singing is what the people of God do in God’s presence.
Will Willimon shares a story from his days as Dean of the Chapel at Duke. It was the end of the day and Willimon decided to visit a member of his congregation who was a lawyer. He dropped by his office and everyone had gone home but this lawyer who was working late. In pastor fashion Willimon asked, “What sort of day have you had?” He received an answer: “A typical day…full of misery. In the morning I assisted a couple to evict their aging father from his house so they could take everything while he was in a nursing home. All legal, not particularly moral, but legal. By lunchtime I was helping a client evade his worker’s comp insurance payment. It’s legal. This afternoon I have been enabling a woman to ruin her husband’s life forever with the sweetest divorce you ever saw. That’s my day.”
Willimon thought, “What could I say?” The lawyer continued, “Which helps explain why I’m in your church on a Sunday morning.” Willimon said, “I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed thinking what on earth I have to say in a sermon which might help you for a Sunday.”
Then the lawyer said, “It’s not the sermon I come for, preacher. It’s the music. I go a whole week with nothing beautiful, little good, until Sunday. Sometimes when the choir sings, it is for me the difference between death and life.”
Here’s the way Martin Luther spoke of music:
I wish to see all art, principally music, in the service of Him who gave and created them. Music is a fair and glorious gift of God. I would not for the world forego my humble share of music. Singers are never sorrowful, but are merry, and smile through their troubles in song. Music makes people kinder, gentler, more staid and reasonable. I am strongly persuaded that after theology there is no art that can be placed on a level with music; for besides theology, music is the only art capable of affording peace and joy of the heart…the devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.
So, Resurrection People, let’s continue to praise God, make the devil flee and pray twice with good music.
Thanks be to God. Amen.