In both Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5, Paul uses the phrase “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” when commanding the church to use music in its discipleship. Are these terms three different kinds of music? Synonyms meaning pretty much the same thing? Generic terms embracing all kinds of music? Well, analyzing Paul’s use of Greek is beyond my abilities but I know someone, Dr. Scott Aniol, who has tackled this subject and addresses these questions in this article. There are a lot of opinions on this topic but most of them approach it from the perspective of projecting today’s aesthetics back into the 1st Century. Dr. Aniol looks at it from the perspective of the 1st Century church and the Greek and Hebrew traditions into which Paul was writing. You may or may not agree with him but, having sat through more than one of his lectures on the topic, I can assure you that the research behind his opinions is impeccable, and you should find his commentary intriguing, at the least. Enjoy!
Well, I’ll leave you to look up the Blazing Saddles reference yourself if it’s not familiar to you, but, while you’re here, I do have some questions for you to consider:
Where do music ministers, often called worship leaders, come from? How do they become caretakers of your church’s music? What training should they have? What skills are needed? Is theological/ministerial training important? Does a music minister need a badge (degree)?
Before I refer you to a lead on answering these questions, I should mention that I hold that the true worship leader of a church is its pastor/shepherd/elder who is ultimately responsible for all elements of a service and for leading the church body in worship. Aspects of a service, such as the music, might be delegated, both to allow the Holy Spirit to utilize all the gifts He has distributed and to allow the pastor more focus on teaching and shepherding the flock. But, unfortunately, a service’s music leadership is all too often assigned on musical ability alone rather than pastoral calling and training. David de Bruyn says this “is like delegating the planning of the Lord’s Supper to the kitchen staff.” (And may God bless those who emulate servant leadership in our kitchens!) In most churches, as much or more time is spent on music as on preaching, scripture reading, and praying combined. This is formative time for feeding the flock, thus those planning the musical ‘menu’ need to understand how to feed the flock biblical nourishment.
But, I digress. Back to that lead I mentioned. Please read this article from Ed Steele, Professor of Music, Leavell College (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary), titled “Why Skill-Based Music Study is Needed in the Seminary Setting.” He tackles these questions and raises an urgent call for churches to engage and discuss these vital topics.
Holy Week is behind us with a mixture of relief and fulfillment as we bask in the afterglow of remembering the resurrection. But the music minister has no time to relax with summer rapidly approaching. Putting together the summer program is perhaps less intense than the Easter and Christmas seasons but has its own set of challenges. Your choir may take the season off and vacation schedules make a shambles of organizing large ensembles. What is one to do? Well, how about using your student or adult instrumentalists to add some variety and artistry to your summer music schedule? Check out these hymn arrangements for solo and small instrumental ensembles, including some uncommon solo instruments. They could help your instrumentalists stay in shape for the fall and they just might resolve your summer dilemma! (Click the Titles to listen and preview sheet music)
- A Hymn of Beginnings: Solo Bassoon and Piano on BUNESSAN (Morning Has Broken)
- Were You There: Solo Tuba and Piano
- Fairest Friend: Flute and Horn (or Trombone) Duet with Piano and Optional Rhythm, What a Friend We Have in Jesus with Fairest Lord Jesus
- Long Expected Jesus: Brass Quintet on HYFRYDOL
- Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Trombone Quartet
In yesterday’s services one of our hymns was The Solid Rock (My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less) with text written by Edward Mote (1834). It’s a wonderful hymn of the believer’s eternal assurance in Christ containing allusions to the parable of the wise and foolish builder (Matt 7:24-27), and Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41), among others.
One of the lines, using nautical metaphors, states: “In ev’ry high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.” Being a nerd when it comes to the history and theology of hymns, plus having a tendency to play grammar cop, the word “veil” caught my eye as the text ran across our display screens yesterday. This word didn’t make sense to me in the context of searfaring as a veil is something that covers or obscures and certainly has nothing to do with anchors. I suspected then that this was a typo and should have been spelled “vale,” meaning valley or hollow, which Mote would have meant as a synonym for “harbor.” That made all the sense in the world to me to draw a parallel between the believer’s security in Christ with a ship being safely at anchorage in a harbor amid a storm.
So, I mentioned to our audio-visual guru between services that there was a misspelled word in our lyrics. A few minutes later he responded that the text matched up with the published text in the hymnal. Hmmm, that was curious. How could that have gotten through the editors? How could it have gone unnoticed for years? Perplexed, I decided to dig a little.
Turns out I was wrong, wrong, wrong about what Edward Mote meant to convey and “veil” is absolutely the right word! This line of poetry actually derives directly from Hebrews 6:19: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” (ESV). The “veil” in question refers to the curtain in the Jerusalem Temple that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant resided, representing the throne of God. Further, the writer of Hebrews uses this Temple imagery to point out that Christ has superseded the old covenant and its rituals and now ministers for us not in the earthly Temple, which is but a “copy and a shadow of the heavenly things” (Heb 8:5), but in the “greater and more perfect tabernacle” (Heb 9:11), that is, heaven itself.
So, when Mote writes, “In ev’ry high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil,” he says, “through every trial and tribulation Christ holds our hope secure in the very presence of God the Father.” And now you know why Mote used “veil” instead of “vale!”
All composers would love to have a full professional orchestra/ensemble/choir standing in anticipation of our latest work, and a very precious few have that luxury, but most of us have to either hunt for a group willing to play our music or, as for most church music, write for the group the Lord has placed at hand. Such is the case for a just completed project. At our church we have a string section consisting of players who have just started a year or two ago, one or two who make their living as musicians, and every experience level in between. Our orchestra director approached me recently to write something new that would be suitable for these folks: interesting for the advanced players while still being readily playable by the new students. The result is this arrangement of, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”
The hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” may have origins as far back as the 4th Century church, being long used both as a Christmas hymn and to focus worshippers on the mystery of the incarnation and the Eucharist. Thus, this piece is well-suited for Advent, Christmas, or any observance of communion. The tune, PICARDY, comes from a 1680 French song book.
This arrangement maintains the original melody in three contrasting settings bookended between rich sequences of tonal clusters. Solo violin makes the first statement of the melody in silvery harmonics over static chords. Lead violin and cello take the second statement in a contrapuntal fashion over homophonic harmonies. The third statement changes tempo and style to reflect the heavenly adoration of the Lamb portrayed in the text. Here the melody is taken by ensemble violins while solo violin adds countermelody and low strings provide a rhythmic pulse.
So, without further adieu, here is “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” Sheet music is available at: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.
Excited to announce that my arrangement of Ponder Anew, an arrangement of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” [LOBE DEN HERREN] will be debuted by the First Baptist Church of Keller Orchestra at their Spring concert! The concert will occur on May 6, 2018 at 5:30 PM in the First Baptist Church Keller sanctuary. The orchestra is under the direction of Mrs. Laura Vickers and the Worship and Creative Arts ministry is under the supervision of Mr. Matt Perkinson. Mrs. Vickers has even agreed to let me conduct the piece!
Listen to a preview of Ponder Anew below:
My original post introducing Ponder Anew is here.
Other than my own family members, the news of Billy Graham’s passing from this Earth moved me more than most any other. Hardly any American over the age of 20 has failed to interact in some way with Dr. Graham, so the news of his death, at age 99, was felt far and wide. Many have shared this quotation attributed to Dr. Graham:
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
Billy Graham actually adapted that quote from his hero, D. L. Moody, who made it in 1900. This quote reflects an anthem text that our choir at FBC Keller just began preparing this week. Called It Is Not Death to Die, it was written in 1832 by César Malan and translated into English by George W. Bethune in 1847. The text reads as follows:
It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And ‘midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.
It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears,
And wake in glorious repose
To spend eternal years.
It is not death to bear
The wrench that sets us free
From dungeon chain, to breathe the air
Of boundless liberty.
It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust,
And rise, on strong, exulting wing,
To live among the just.
Jesus, Thou Prince of life!
Thy chosen cannot die:
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife,
To reign with Thee on high.
This text so beautifully captures the message and faith that Billy Graham expressed in his quote, just as D. L. Moody before him. This message is at the very core of the Christian faith, that we have hope in eternal life in Jesus Christ. Without this hope, our faith is futile.
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Cor 15:16-18 ESV
But Christ has been raised. He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor 15:51-57 ESV
Rejoice, Christian. Indeed, “It Is Not Death to Die.”
(Original posting 10/26/2017)
A) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
B) Beauty has absolute standards.
Which, if either, of these statements is true? The first is subjective, dependent on the values of the observer. The second is objective, having a source of authority. Is appreciation of beauty up to the individual or can one point to some standard? Does the Bible provide an answer?
Let’s begin with the standard the Bible uses to define beauty. Among other references to God’s beauty, Psalm 96:9 says, “Worship the LORD in the beauty (or splendor) of holiness.” This is referring to the beautiful garments the high priest was required to wear when entering the Holy of Holies once per year. It conveys the sense that God regards holiness as beautiful. We know that one of the prime attributes of God is his holiness, as in the familiar phrase from Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts.” He is three times holy! In biblical terms, triple repetition represents completion and perfection. So, if God considers holiness beautiful, and the Bible claims him to be complete and perfect in holiness, then the Bible also portrays God to be the perfection of beauty.
Additionally, the creation account encompasses the concept of beauty with the word “good.” Gen 1:31 says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” The world as God made it was good, meaning complete, perfect, purposeful, and yes, beautiful. Also, in verse 26, Genesis tells us that God made man in his image. Thus by argument from the greater to the lesser, pre-fall mankind was also beautiful in the image of God.
So, there is an objective, universal, standard of beauty. It is all the attributes of the invisible God: his splendor, majesty, glory, holiness, perfection, harmony, order, balance, righteousness, loveliness, etc. It is also the nature of visible creation prior to the curse of sin, for “his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). It is also the attributes of the incarnate, sinless son of man, Jesus Christ, who is the “radiance of the glory of God” (Heb 1:3) whom we have seen (John 1:14). It can also be perceived in our own bodies; “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Ps 139:14). Obviously, then, statement B above is correct. But, if this is true then statement A must be false. If beauty is not up to the beholder how may one recognize it?
First, we must recognize that our sinful nature warps our judgment so that we are unable to reliably discern beauty from ugliness on our own; “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick, who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9); and, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20). To correct our warped judgment God’s word must be applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit; “But solid food is for the mature, for those whose power of discernment is trained by constant practice to discern evil from good” (Heb 5:14); and 2 Tim 3:16, “All scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
And what in God’s word teaches us to discern beauty from ugliness? A good place to begin is Phil 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatsoever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This list may be arranged into three categories: truth, goodness, and beauty, which could all be summed up into beauty itself. But truth, goodness, and beauty are good categories to learn to identify. Furthermore, this is not just a list, but it is a command. Paul says, “think about these things!” For the Christian, appreciating beauty is not the optional domain of just the artist. Every believer in Jesus Christ is obligated to learn to appreciate beauty. Consider Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Beauty being one of God’s attributes, it is something we must delight in. And here in Philippians is where one begins to train his powers of discernment to distinguish beauty from ugliness. This is also the beginning of how the church can resolve its divisions over music and art, but that is another topic!