Choir for God
In her book, “Prayers in the Night” Tish Harrison Warren writes, “The Christian life is more like a poem than an encyclopedia.” It has definition that can be articulated. You want an answer - look it up. It has mystery that allows for multiple understandings. Two opposing understandings can be correct. We are prone to push the Christian faith into one of those two labels. Literalists wave the Biblical encyclopedia. Mystics proclaim riddles from the Biblical poem. But both approaches need to be held together, despite the tension. How? Maybe the means is in a song.
I like Warren’s metaphor, but would add another. Faith is like singing. Singers know that sheet music contains both lyric and melody. There are words to sing. To be true to the song, a performer must know the words, understand their meaning and convey that insight to others. We can’t simply make up the lyrics or we cease to have a song, at least one that is commonly familiar. Christians sing from the same page, conveying a common lyric. The truths of the Bible form verses of lyric which have been shaped over centuries. We have debated and defined them. We have trusted the leadership of the Author to ensure that we have the lyrics right. We continue to fine tune the words for clarity and relevance to our world. But there is more to music than lyric.
There is melody which speaks to places deeper than our understanding. The lyrics are not simply spoken but sung - with passion and joy, conveying feelings that penetrate our hearts. A song has rhythm, harmony, rests and crescendos. A melody brings pleasure, reflection, and creativity to the lyrics. So choirs can sing the same song in different ways, shifting inflections or feelings. One lyric can appeal to different hearers which span the generations. The music gives the lyric life.
But as mentioned, melody and lyric have to be held together. In churches we have those who pound the table to make sure we get the words just right. Others demand that variety and creativity be freed without limit. But lyric that is free form, ceases to be something that can be passed on. Melody without musical theory is chaos - just noise. There are parameters to words and notes. There are parameters to orthodoxy and expression. These paragraphs are not meant to define those parameters. (Only 500 words here!) But they do invite personal examination.
If living faith is both doctrine and practice, head and heart, lyric and melody - I want to bind them in my life. It is not enough just to be right. I want more than lyric. I want a song. The joy of life’s tune can attract others to the truth they hum, even before they understand the words. So, make room for the poetry of faith. Give voice to the music of God. Sing the song He has planted in your heart wholly - with words and jingle. It will be an anthem for His glory and a delight to your soul.