Category Archives: Music – January 2018

Why Lutherans Sing

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This article was originally posted in The Lutheran Ambassador, the AFLC magazine.

Lutherans are known as “the singing church” and Martin Luther has been called “the father of congregational singing.”  But why do we sing?  Is it simply our tradition?  Is it an appropriate way to express our emotions of gratitude and love toward God?  Is it a biblically sanctioned part of worship (Psalm 66:1-2)?  Does it help bind us together as a community?  The answer is yes to all these questions about communal Christian singing in the Church.  However, there is another excellent reason Lutherans sing:  hymn singing is an important part of our Christian education.

Maybe you thought the children were just having fun singing all those Sunday School songs.  They are having fun, but they are also learning about important people in the Bible (Father Abraham), the essentials of the faith (Jesus Loves Me), the proper response to God’s love (Praise Him, Praise Him, All You Little Children) and what it means to be part of the church (We Are the Church).

Setting words to music is an aid to memorization.  Young people often learn the books of the Bible (in order no less) by singing a song.  Adults who participate in a Lutheran liturgy discover they’ve memorized many Psalms and other portions of scripture by taking part in the worship service.  Well chosen hymns also serve to reinforce the theme of the sermon and the readings of the day.  And in times of crisis in our lives the comforting words of hymns bring the reminder of God’s eternal concern for His people to our minds and hearts.

Good hymns teach.  They help us understand the different church seasons (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel).  They prepare us for communion (Let Us Break Bread Together).  They tell us about the attributes of God (A Mighty Fortress). They convict us of our sin (Amazing Grace). They explain theological concepts (The Church’s One Foundation) and give lessons in how to serve (Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling) and be more generous (We Give Thee But Thine Own). Some hymns are almost a sermon in themselves (Salvation Unto Us Has Come)!

Church music can touch our hearts and sink into our souls in a way that is hard to explain or understand. Church music can lift us up into the very realm of God’s presence.  No wonder Luther called it “a fair and glorious gift of God.”

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I Am the Bread of Life — Book Review

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A few months ago when our theme was “Food, Feasts and Gluttony” I purchased a copy of I Am the Bread of Life by Sister Suzanne Toolan and Elizabeth Dossa.  Sister Suzanne is the composer of the song, as well as many others and is also a gifted teacher of music.  The book is made up of a series of essays –some are biographical, others Sister Suzanne’s thoughts on topics such as Silence, Liturgy, Ritual, Celebrations, and some contain practical advice on prayer, music and liturgy.

I Am the Bread of Life

As a Lutheran, I didn’t agree with everything in the book, but much of the material on liturgy resonated deeply with me.  It’s obvious that to Sr. Suzanne, music is a spiritual practice. She took care to make sure her students understood what they were singing.  She felt the music should encourage their faith. She speaks about liturgy not as something to study, but as a beloved and thoughtful discipline.  Here are some of her quotes:

“A good hymn is almost instructional.”

“Entertainment or liturgy as theater has no depth to it.”

“There is a unity of spirit in the singing.”

“The Liturgy is about leading the congregation to the Real Presence.”

Sister Suzanne is an amazing woman, and anyone interested in the liturgy and music of the church will enjoy this read.

 

Music that Takes You Back

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My mother died just a few days ago, and I started thinking about my childhood — when I was very small, mom would sing to me;  silly songs or popular songs of the late 40’s and early 50’s.  Songs like “How Much is that Doggy in the Window?,”  “Yes, I have no Bananas,” or “Happy Trails to You” take me back to that time. (Does anyone else remember these, or am I just really, really old?)

Music connects us with other times and places.  “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles takes me back to the days of watching American Band Stand as a young teenager;  “Hey, Jude,” (Beatles) “Leaving on a Jet Plane,”(Joni Mitchell) and “I Second that Emotion”(Smokey Robinson) take me back to college days, playing records in the dorm.

There are plenty of hymns and Christian songs that take us back to significant times and seasons in our spiritual journey as well.  As a child, I sang “Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam” in Sunday School and “Beautiful Savior” in church.  “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb” recalls singing in the car with my young daughters.  “A Mighty Fortress” is, of course, for Reformation Day; “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” — Advent, “Silent Night” — Christmas, “O Sacred Head Most Wounded”–Lent and “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” — Easter.  For Lutherans, the liturgy is a constant that binds all those songs together as we walk through the birth, life and death of Christ and the seasons of the church year.

Like Michele, I’m going to give our authors and readers a challenge — what song takes you back to an important time in your life with God?  I hope to see some posts and comments about the music that takes you back this month.

 

Sing a New Song

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“Happy New Year!” is the common cry of the day, but I prefer to wish people a blessed new year. Not everything that happened in 2017 was happy. On an international and national scale, there were natural and man-made disasters of all sorts, leaving many people homeless and some mourning those dear to them who were lost. On a personal front, my mother died on Easter 2017, I had unexpected heart surgery in July, and without having planned or thought about it, as a result of the surgery, I went from being a classroom teacher to an administrator.

But there have been blessings: My second granddaughter was born in May; the change in job is definitely better for my recovery (way less stressful, and fewer hours!), and I am finding that the new job is actually where I am supposed to be at this time in my lfe. I recognize God’s hand in all that has come to pass.

So as we enter a new calendar year, with no idea what may be in store, may we always remember to praise God, and with the psalmist, sing a new song:

Psalm 96

Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
    The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
    he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
    he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Have a blessed new year, knowing wherever it leads you, God is with you always.

 

The Hymn/Song That Moves You?

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“Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through Music.”

This is one of many quotes said by Martin Luther regarding our praise through song.

Think about it, I am sure there is a hymn/song out there that seems to touch you more than others.  I know that it can be a hard decision but I believe that God speaks to us in the song that touches us the most.  Now I also believe that the song can change as we grow in our faith or even as we surmount obstacles in life.  My song used to be “In the Garden” but recently I feel compelled to follow in the footsteps of “Here I Am”.  These words seem to resonate deep within me to be a witness in Christs’ name, without fear of rejection.  I am posting the lyrics to follow:

Here I am, Lord

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
  Here I am, Lord.  Is it I, Lord?

            I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

 

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. ……

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will send the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

  Here I am, Lord. …..

What hymn/song moves you?   I mean really moves you deep down.  I am interested to see the responses and why those particular words move you.

Now do not be shy, I WANT to know.

God Loves You And So Do I

Michele

New Month/New Theme

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Wow, it is hard to believe that yet another month has gone by.  Not only that but another year.  This month the focus will be on music.  We believe that music is an important part of worship and since we recently reviewed the book “Sing”, we have been inspired to delve deeper into the subject.

On a different note:

 

As 2017 comes to an end, my fellow writers and I want to thank each and every one of our readers for their support.  With your encouragement and that support, we have blossomed into a platform of God through out the world.  Of course, we are aware the God himself has had a hand in this, but without people following His voice to us, we would not be able to spread His word and love.  As we head into the new year, I look forward to continuing His work through this blog and hope that each and every one of you know how much you mean to all of us here.

Always remember, never forget

God Loves You And So Do We