All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
And all your faithful shall bless you.
I must confess that I have never really understood people who don’t love music. Growing up, I always found it odd that my mother would never listen to music in the car or at home doing work. I’ve got music for everything, from Taize or Gregorian chant when I’m stressed to Red Molly singing “Vincent Black Lightning, 1952” on repeat when I need to sit down and get some work done. In addition to singing in the Parish Choir, I can be found in my spare time with my drum at an Irish music session at a local pub.
I was perplexed one day last year at an event at Virginia Theological Seminary when a man (who had coincidentally introduced himself as “Wade, as in ‘wade in the water’”) sounded surprised after I brought up the topic of music as a form of prayer. Though not raised in the church, he had been a regular worshipper for a number of years. He was not new to the idea of religious music. In a later group reflection he mentioned that this “music as prayer” idea was somewhat revolutionary to him. I thought, “Well obviously, of course it is.” There is music for motivation or relaxation, there is also music for prayer.
Music can easily fall into the same trap as the rest of prayer, can become rote. Whether in a choir or part of the congregation singing hymns, we sometimes do not pay much attention to the words, or to what the music makes us feel. We sing hymns because of routine; they are normal parts of the liturgy. We stand, we sing, we recite a prayer, we sit, we sing, and so on. There are moments, however–like the annual Jazz festival service or while singing an unusual hymn—moments that break us out of the routine and enable us to connect with the deeper mystery behind the music.
What would it look like if we could carry this sense of connection to every musical moment of the liturgy? Whatever your preferences — Renaissance choral music, contemporary Gospel, Anglican chant, or “On Eagle’s Wings” — it is all prayer. What would it to do for us if we could feel the Spirit in all of it?
Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 49: 8-15, Psalm 145:8-19, John 5:19-29