There is no subject more likely
to divide an elder’s meeting than that of church music. To some, it
appears that modern music is largely composed of over-amplified
simplicities. To come to the case in point, where is the modern musical
equivalent of Old Rugged Cross? For these, comfort comes from the
old and familiar—and the old and familiar are right there in the hymnal in
front of you.
Of course, the modernists have
their say. Most commonly we hear two themes: it’s necessary for
evangelism (especially to young people) and that the older music is “too
complicated.” Four part harmony is seldom taught in school these
days. So, we don’t have the means to do it right—so we’ll do it with
simple choruses and music that the kids understand.
Pitifully far behind in this
debate are those whose musical tastes run to the classical. It’s one of
the first things to go from the school budget—because the school leaders like
rock-n-roll. But if you will humor me and consider the music that shaped
worship for over three hundred years, you will find a curious pattern.
Although there are many, many religious works available, it is interesting to
note that the “great” musical works primarily concentrate on one of four
themes. One is the Credo (“I believe”), usually the Apostles’
Creed. The other three are of interest to us concerning Communion:
(Holy) - these works focus on the power, might and supreme holiness of
God. With the deep eeriness that classical music can bring up, they
conveyed a sense of utter holiness in God. And something lacking in us.
(Lord) - “Lord, have mercy upon us.” If He is utterly holy, and we are
not, then we come into his presence as unholy sinners; we cannot ask for
pardon—except in the blood of Christ. This at once proclaims the lordship
of Christ and the sinfulness of man.
(Glory to God) - If the mighty and holy God comes in the flesh, to die upon a
cross so that sinners such as you and I might accept the lordship of Christ and
thus come into His presence seeking mercy, it is indeed a moment of
glory. It is glory to God, for He has done great things.
Do you not see that all this is
summed up in Communion? We acknowledge His holiness and our
sinfulness. We come, calling upon the One who is faithful and true,
asking mercy, and receiving it. And as we finish, surely we should give
glory to God.
Athanasius, the great defender of
the doctrine of the Trinity in the early church, taught that one is closest to
heaven when praising God with music—for only in music do you worship Him
with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Give heed, then, to what
you sing; He inhabits the praise of His people (Psalm 22:3). Use the
music to prepare your self to understand His holiness and your
sinfulness. Use it to put your thought into asking forgiveness of the one
you call Lord. Do so, and carry the glory of God out from the sanctuary
and into the world.