The Symphony of Praise
< By Tawnya Hons >
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20
“We should understand God’s kingdom as a concert in which we sound together with other people and communities. As in a symphony, each person has his own voice but the composition becomes audible only through the unity of the instruments.” -Martin Schleske, “The Sound of Life’s Unspeakable Beauty” Book. 2020.
Our worship ministry has experienced significant change the past year along with everyone in the pandemic. For me, it has meant doing many video recordings and mostly singing and playing by myself, even when it is during a service at the church! As we start to incorporate others back into the music leading of the service it has me thinking about how much easier it is to sing and play by myself. And how dangerous that comfort is.
It is dangerous to find comfort in your own preferences. I have types of music I prefer to listen to. I have versions of songs I prefer to hear. I have tempos I prefer them to be sung. All of these statements point to my cultural bias of consumption. Music is a choice and I can choose what to consume. The danger comes when I waltz into a worship service with this attitude. What am I worshipping?
I take several weeks to prepare the 14 minutes of music for one worship service. There is prayer. There is reading scripture. There is reflection on what God has been speaking in my life and reflection on what is happening in the body of our church. There is daily practice so that my voice and instrument can be adequately prepared. Most of all, I find myself daily drawn into relationship with Jesus.
It struck me one day how easily I take this gift for granted. The gift of preparation of my heart for the service. That day I was not serving on the worship team. I came at 10:15am with my family. I listened to announcements and stood to sing. I found my thoughts were “ok, we’re starting this song pretty fast” and “huh, I don’t know this one, why a new song, why not this other song”. Before I knew it I had spent this precious time focused on my own preferences. Guess what I was worshipping.
I want to share this story because I have been given the gift of seeing both sides, being very prepared for a worship service and coming in cold. Here is one thing I have done that anyone can do to guard their heart against focus on consumption rather than focus on Jesus.
I asked God to open my eyes. Then I saw my fellow church member, standing up under lights and cameras, vulnerably sharing their own heart for God. Using their talents and abilities to invite me to look to Jesus. Sharing their songs to help my heart have songs to sing to the Lord in unity with them. A person inviting me to become part of the symphony of praise. When I saw them and heard their offering to God I was amazed at how he loves us. I was humbled to know I was not alone in loving him. I marveled at the gift of song that he gives us to become aligned corporately to him.
So I invite you to ask God to open your eyes, your heart, before our worship service. I know he will answer your prayer. My hope is that you will see the music leaders as a group of people who are doing our very best to serve. It is helpful to hear feedback to help us improve. Be careful of the danger of only spending your time of corporate worship focused solely on what you receive. Give the gift of your heart to God, sacrifice your preferences and see what happens.