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Communion Meditations (2006)

Music

Originally delivered April 23

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:

· Sanctus (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.

· Kyrie (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.

· Gloria (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.

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