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Music: A great gift from God

July 8, 2009

Martin Luther said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Next to theology, I consider music to be the greatest gift of God.”  I would, of course, agree completely.  I love music in general.  My tastes range from Classical to Sacred and Church Music to Blues and Heavy Metal.  And I don’t see a problem with that.  Each type of music has its place.

Many people, especially pastors of the “contemporary worship” persuasion, are surprised to find out that I play the guitar.  I guess they assume that since I like organ music in church that I don’t like Rock music.  They couldn’t be farther from the truth.  What I like to say is “I like the Beatles; I just don’t play them in church.”  My preference for the pipe organ as the instrument of choice in a Divine Service has nothing to do with whether I like or dislike other types of music.  It has everything to do with the fact that pop culture should not drive what we do in church.  This is not to say that a guitar cannot be used in church, because I have done it.  I find that acoustic guitar works especially well on Christmas Eve, for hymns such as “Silent Night” and “What Child Is This,” especially when paired with flutes or clarinets.  And I am not saying that I think organ should be the instrument because it is a sacred instrument.  It does have that connotation for many people now, but it was used in Roman times to play in the Collosseum to entertain the masses, so there is nothing inherently sacred about the instrument.  However, at this point in history, the pipe organ is almost exclusively used for church music, which tells the people that the church service is different from every day life.

Now as I said, I play the guitar.  It has become a hobby for me and I really enjoy it.  I get together with two guys from the congregation and we play all kinds of music, from old-timey stuff and spirituals to The Eagles, Steve Miller, The Beatles, and so on.  But I especially enjoy the blues.  It is a great musical form (my wife would disagree) that is especially fun to play.  The lyrics can definitely leave a lot to be desired.  In fact, I’ve even heard the blues described as “the devil’s music” because it supposedly took gospel music and did the opposite, singing about the dark things in life.  I will not disagree that it might not be the most wholesome and kid-friendly type of music, but the power of the blues is not in the lyrics, but in the music itself.  Playing the blues is a way to relax, unwind, and enjoy God’s great gift of music.  Even this style, which is supposed to be a perversion of “sacred” music can be used for good.  But, I will still not play blues in church.  I could, and there would probably be people who would like it, but this would be absolutely inappropriate for me to do.  Blues is very earthy music, and it lacks the reverence and transcendence of many of the great hymns and the historic liturgy.  Blues is for the here and now, but the historic liturgy is timeless.  I love both, but blues is just a hobby.  The liturgy is serious business, because God is giving us Himself in Word and Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins.  Blues lets you sing about your problems; in the historic liturgy we hear of God solving our greatest problem: sin.  Thanks be to God!

From → Church Music

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