St. Helen’s Daily Lenten Devotional
It was Martin Luther, the German Reformer and priest, composer and author, who wrote “Next to the Word of God the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” There is no question that the psalmist would agree. The call to ‘praise the Lord with the sounding of the trumpet, with the harp and lyre’ and to ‘sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music’ is an enduring theme throughout the Hebrew hymn book, emerging both in times of joy and in times of sorrow.
One of the many sad restrictions imposed by the pandemic is the decree against singing in person, whether at church or in any public group, due to the way in which the virus is transmitted. And, unless you are part of a close knit choir or singing group, meeting virtually, many of us are left joining the superstars on our playlists, belting out tunes with the radio, or letting the shower stall resonate with our solos, melodious or not.
In generations past, sing-a-longs were a common occurrence, as families and friends gathered around a piano, or the resident guitarist, fiddler, or harmonica virtuoso and all joined in a ‘joyful noise’, often amid much shared laughter. It is now more likely that family members will each have their own headphone on so that they can listen to their own preference.
Music is powerful. It can calm an agitated soul, lift sagging spirits, stir strong emotions. It can entertain, stimulate action or be a prayer of praise in itself. It can bring precious memories to mind, invite the release of tears, or engender a sense of profound peace and well-being.
It has been proven that listening to music that makes you feel good has health benefits. And for many of us, it prompts us to ‘dance as though no one is watching’. Truly “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. To soften rocks, or bend the knotted oak.” (from William Congreve’s 1697 play The Mourning Bride). Church is one of the few places left where those of us not perhaps as musically accomplished as others, get to sing to our heart’s content. May we be able to “Sing to the Lord a new song” soon!