Dear friends I want to now offer some help and encouragement for the third and final part of home or family worship: singing. Just to recap, family worship comprises of three parts that you can all do at home with your families, or on your own: reading, praying and singing. As I said before, this is something that it has always been very important for us to do, but its importance is highlighted now in the current situation, a bit like hand-washing! You’ll find some help on this website for reading and praying, but now look at singing.
A Singing People
God’s people are a singing people. We have been singing praise in response to God and his works since the beginning and we will be singing his praises for eternity.
When Adam met Eve for the first time, after God had created her from his own rib, he responded with a joyful, lyrical exclamation:
‘This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called “woman”,
for she was taken out of man.’
(Genesis 2:23, NIVUK)
When Moses and Israelites escaped from Egypt, crossed through the Red Sea on dry ground and saw Pharoah and his soldiers defeated by God, they responded in song.
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
‘I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.
Their life of slavery was over, the people who sought to kill them have been defeated, they’ve been rescued by the true and living God, and they respond with song.
The entire book of Psalms is poetic prayer, many of them specifically described as songs in their titles. Many of these psalms were written by King David, who liked to praise God with music.
In the New Testament we see God’s people continue to sing in response to his works. Luke’s gospel is rich with song as people respond to the coming of the long-awaited Messiah: Mary’s song, the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55, Zechariah’s song the Benedictus in Luke 1:67-79, the angels’ song, which has come to be known as Gloria in Excelsis Deo, in Luke 2:13, and Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis in Luke 2:29-32. Matthew records that Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn together at the end of the last supper (Matthew 26:30). Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, uses poetry (or possibly an early church hymn) to describe the self-giving love of Jesus:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:5-11, NIVUK)
When John was imprisoned on the island of Patmos, isolated, separated from the church he loved so dearly, he was visited by the risen Lord Jesus and given a glimpse into heaven. What did he see in heaven? Singing!
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.’
(Revelation 5:6-10, NIVUK)
When God spoke to the prophet Isaiah to describe that day when all things will be made right and new and God’s kingdom will come to earth in all its fullness he poetically describes nature itself rejoicing in song.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
(Isaiah 55:12, NIVUK)
God’s people and his creation rejoice in song in response to the redemptive work of God.
We are Called to Sing
We are not just given examples of singing in the Bible, we are also instructed to sing:
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
(Colossians 3:16, NIVUK)
We can sing praises in response to God and what he has done. We can sing for joy. We can sing in lamentation. So many of the psalms are broken-hearted cries to God. Our singing is not a performance, we do not do it to show off, but to praise God and direct our souls to turn to him.
I know some of you may feel uncomfortable singing. I write this with love and a pastor’s heart, so please don’t take it the wrong way: unless you have some serious trauma or psychological hang-up, if it is merely self-consciousness preventing you from singing, then the solution here is simply to get over yourself. It’s not about you. It’s about God and God deserves our praises. However, what we find when we dedicate ourselves to praising God is that we are doing what we have been made to do and in that we can find a deep and lasting joy. So don’t deny yourself the joy of worship!
Perhaps you are not a very emotionally expressive person. Welcome to the club! Neither am I! Sometimes I have to remind myself to smile so people don’t think I’m mad at them! Perhaps you don’t really feel moved to sing. I suggest singing anyway, you would be surprised how moved you can be once you get things started. I am not a great singer, but I sing, because it’s not about me, it’s about God.
If you can sing a football chant or happy birthday to your friends or children, then you can sing to God. And when you do so you are never alone. We join the choir of angels and saints in heaven, praising God.
There are some great online resources to help you to sing. All you have to do is Google or search on Spotify or YouTube and you can find the lyrics or the music for you to sing any hymn or worship song you like. I try to find appropriate hymns to post up alongside my Sunday sermons, but if there are any that you would particularly like included, please let me know.