“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name” Psalm 30:4
Lutherans have been called “the singing church” and it’s true. I can’t imagine worship without singing. One visitor to our church told me, “you have a lot of audience participation!” Well, we’re not meant to be an audience because worship isn’t a performance and yes, it’s all about participation. The word liturgy literally means “work of the people.” Songs of praise are part of that work, and it’s a privilege and joy to worship the One who loves and saves us.
The Bible is full of saints who sang. There was David, of course, author of many of the Psalms (the hymn book of the Old Testament). Miriam sang after the people crossed the Red Sea, and Deborah sang a victory after defeating the Canaanites. Mary sang after her meeting with the angel who announced the birth of God’s son, and Simeon sang after seeing that same babe who had been promised.
There are many reasons saints sing, but most often their songs flow out of the joy and happiness of life with God. One Christian song that comes to my mind as I write this is His Eye Is On the Sparrow. Here’s the story of how that hymn by Civilla Martin came to be written:
“Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheelchair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s response was simple: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience.”
The next day she mailed the poem to composer, Charles Gabriel, who wrote the tune for it. Sing along with this beautiful piece because you’re happy to be a child of the King.
I borrowed this book from my husband’s office at church because it looked like it fit well with our theme this month and some of the posts I have been doing on the Psalms. The Psalter was Martin Luther’s daily prayer book as a monk and the subject of his initial lectures as a professor. His lectures and commentaries on the Psalms fill five volumes in the American Edition of Luther’s Works
This book combines several resources. The text of each Psalm is included along with the translation of Luther’s Summaries on that Psalm. To maintain the devotional style some things have been omitted, and his shorter summaries supplemented with comments from other writings. Each Psalm is also accompanied by a prayer drawn from Book of Devotion: The Psalms by Rev. F. Kuegle. The Book also includes instructions for singing the Psalms, categories of Psalms, and a schedule of Psalms for daily prayer.
Reading the Psalms With Luther is an excellent resource for individual or family devotions. I hope some of our authors and readers will try it and post their opinion.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my heart pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Where can I go and meet with God?
This is one of my personal favorites. The beautiful imagery speaks of a desire to know God that is equivalent to thirst. The deer’s search for water is central to its’ very existence, and our lives depend upon God in the same way. My study Bible (the Life Application Bible, NIV version) calls Psalm 42 and “antidepressant.” I agree, it’s a wonderful way to lift up your spirit; and yes, there is a musical version:
As for myself, let me say that I am a doctor and a preacher. I am as learned and experienced as any of those who are so presumptuous and confident. Yet I do as a child that is learning the Catechism. I read and repeat in the morning and whenever I have time, the Ten Commandments, Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, etc. I daily read and study the Catechism, and still I am not able to master it as thoroughly as I wish. I must remain a child and a pupil of the Catechism, and this I do very willingly.
If Martin Luther was willing to study the basics of the faith over and over, shouldn’t each of us be willing to do likewise?