Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 9 February 2016

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14, verse 26.

A word about music and hymns, actually hundreds of them.

Pick up a hymnal at any church and you’ll find somewhere between three and six hundred of them printed in the book.   Some are ancient, going back to before the days of Jesus.   Some go back to the middle ages.   Some were written by famous people.   Some are nearly brand new.   One of the things I find most difficult about going to new churches (especially contemporary ones) is when hymns and songs are shown on overhead screens.   The words are shown while the band or choir sings along, but you have no music to read in accompaniment. This makes it difficult for me to follow sometimes, especially when the band gets ahead of the overhead projector.

Yet I’m thankful for music.   To be honest, I’m not much of a musician.   I like to sing, but I’m embarrassed by it. When I was growing up, over the years I played piano, violin, viola and trombone; today I’ve forgotten most of what I learned about any of them. From time to time I like to pick up a guitar and I’ve learned a few chords yet not enough to say “I can play guitar.”   But none of this means that I don’t like music.   I like it very much.   I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on music downloaded to my iPhone.    If you pass my car on the road and I’m alone in it, look over and you might just find me singing. And I have great respect and admiration for people whose muse inspires them to actually write new songs.

What’s the point?   The point is that I’m not uncommon.   The radio dial is full of music stations.   You can download any of (literally) millions of songs online through any number of services. Go into most any store and you’ll find music playing in the background.   And a big part of any movie it the music on the soundtrack: it harmonizes with the story or the action you see to better appeal to our senses. Music is a big part of our lives.   It’s no coincidence that young people, especially, are affected by music because music appeals to both emotion and reason in ways we can’t really explain.

It was a part of the Last Supper.   If you attend a Jewish seder today, you still sing a psalm at the end.   That’s what Jesus and the Disciples did.   The “hymn” they sung at the end of their meal was a psalm, centuries old even then.   It was a hallel psalm; a praise song that included repentance and revelation, sin and anguish, praise and thanksgiving.   The song they sang was a cap on the evening’s celebration and a replay of its solemnity.   It was a way for the Disciples to express their sorrow and joy at this living future in which they found themselves, as well as an expression of unity with their Hebrew past. It was common then; it’s common now.

So if you’re like me and embarrassed to sing, then consider that Jesus Himself used to sing, that He did so freely and enthusiastically on the night on which He was betrayed. It makes the miracle of that time seem more human and beautiful.

Lord Jesus, thank You for music.   Thank You for singing, for the gift of song, for using music to speak matters of faith to our hearts.

Read Mark 14, verses 12-26.

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