by Pastor Mark Jordan
Do you enjoy singing? I sure do! It is a special part of worship that is intended to be done in a public, as well as private, setting.
The Christian faith is a singing faith. A lot of our theology (thoughts and understanding of God) is expressed in singing. In fact, the early days of the Methodist movement involved the writing of many songs we now know as hymns. Charles Wesley (John Wesley’s brother, and one of the most prolific writer of Christian hymns, penning some 6,500!) knew that one of the best ways to teach Christian beliefs was through song. So many of the hymns we know as timeless classics today were contemporary worship songs in his day. This gives life to the fact that Methodists should always be on the cutting edge of worship, while honoring our time-honored traditions in light of our eternal God.
Though I can’t say with any certainty, I would imagine Charles Wesley would love today’s verse: “O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise” (Psalm 95:1-2, NRSV)!
This invitation to worship God in song tells us to make a joyful noise. Your singing might be noisier than others, but it should be no less joyful. Ever. If you need some encouragement or enlightenment, I want to share with you the Wesley’s Instructions for Singing from 1761. These are still found today in the front of our United Methodist Hymnals.
Directions for Singing. That this part of Divine Worship may be the more acceptable to God, as well as the more profitable to yourself and others, be careful to observe the following directions.
- Learn these Tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.
- Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
- Sing All. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing.
- Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
- Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
- Sing in Time: whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
- Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your Heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.
I hope this might help you prepare for worship this Sunday by helping you sing out to the Lord with the joyful noise only you can make. And don’t wait for the weekend…get started today!
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for creating me with the ability to make a joyful noise unto you. Forgive me for the times I use my singing time to compare my voice with others, compete with others who are also singing, or keep my voice to myself. Help me to sing out in praise to, and for, you, this day and forever more. I pray in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.