When visited with my family in Oxford England, we toured the cathedral on the campus of Christ Church. The building was filled with beautiful architectural craft, the work of faithful artists practicing their craft hundreds of years ago. One shadow that loomed over the place was the effects of the Reformation. There were gaps in various places where you could tell there used to be something special, but it was destroyed by the reformation zealots who wanted to eradicate the excesses of the Catholic church. It was a tactile reminder of the backlash of the Reformation against lavish music and architecture. Reformation music emphasized simplicity and vernacular language. Good principles that the church needs, but it was a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other.
Timbrel, dance, cymbals, harp, lyre…
God breathed a soul into humanity. Art is an expression of that God-breathed soul. We bring our artistry into worship because God breathed into us and we respond with our breath in praise (My colleague, Mike Ramsey’s song “Everything the Breathes” captures this idea very well). We are given freedom in the kingdom to bring our diverse expressions of praise into worship. See Psalm 150 – everything that breathes is admonished to use it’s breath in melodic praise.
Gifted saints of the past
The story of redemption has given us specific examples of God’s covenant people who have been specially gifted to create artful expressions of worship and praise. Bezalel was filled with the Spirit of God to create the beautiful architecture of the tabernacle. David was a gifted musician before he ever became a warrior or a king. The brothers, Heman and Asaph were musicians who led songs of praise with cymbals, harp, and lyre and then passed on their skills to their sons.
The wedding feast of the Lamb
After the resurrection of Jesus, we have been included in the wedding feast of the Lamb. All the mighty works of God have produced new songs of praise and celebration, and now the reign of the resurrected Lamb has produced lavish worship music throughout the centuries. In John’s apocalyptic vision of who the church is and will always be, he describes the new heavens and the new earth as a place filled with the glory and the splendor of the nations gathered around the throne worshiping the Lamb in new songs. See Revelation 21-22.
Whether your congregation is filled with skilled musicians or not, your music should not be dry recitation of doctrine to dull, plodding monotones. Make some noise and celebrate with all the saints throughout time. Jesus described his Father as one who throws a party at the return of his lost son. Songs of grace should be lavish because God has lavished his grace upon us.