Three Ways to Sing a Common Song

By Mandy Smith

For many Christians, singing hymns in a group is still a meaningful experience. An a cappella version of “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” can induce goose bumps, especially when those harmonies chime in on the “A-men.”

While we don’t usually dissect the meaning of this practice, there are reasons why singing as a group is powerful. The simple act of singing old songs about God to God with each other reinforces three things that are central to our faith:

We are devoted to God through Christ,

We are devoted to him together, and

We are devoted to him together with the millions who have gone before us.

2communion2_JNWe could simply make these three statements every Sunday, but they’re a little dry compared with the experience of singing together, and so we communicate them metaphorically through music.

All of Scripture reinforces these themes, but one moment that sings it most clearly is Jesus’ summary of “all the Law and Prophets”:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-40). Here is the same threefold refrain: We are devoted to God, we are devoted to him together and—by connecting it to the ancient Law and Prophets—Jesus is adding, “And this is nothing new.”

Communion takes up the same theme. Whether by singing hymns together, reading Jesus’ words from Matthew, or taking Communion together, we repeat these same truths, reminding ourselves of the anthem that hums along behind all we do. Communion has been celebrated throughout the centuries and across the nations since the first century. Its symbols remind us of Christ and our reliance on him. By taking it together we remember that we rely on him together. So in this simple act of together lifting a morsel of cracker and tiny sip of juice to our mouths, we join this ancient chorus:

We are devoted to God through Christ,

We are devoted to him together and

We are devoted to him together with the millions who have gone before us.

 

Mandy Smith, originally from Australia, serves as pastor at University Christian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio (www.universitychristianchurch.net). She is the author of Making a Mess and Meeting God: Unruly Ideas and Everyday Experiments for Worship (Standard Publishing) and of The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry (IVP, slated for release in October).

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