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When was the last time you sang in public? You may answer, I don’t if I can help it. The last time you may have sung was singing “Happy Birthday” at a party. We as a people enjoy music, but the act of public singing is a disappearing activity. The last vestiges of public singing are found on Sunday morning when the people of God gather for worship.

We are embarrassed and shamed by our own voices. Perhaps a teacher or another student told you in class, you shouldn’t sing. The act of singing we leave to the professionals and the entertainers. Since the advent of “American Idol” singing is now a competition event. The myriad of musical competition shows,where one voice or group of voices is judged against another, further discourages us from singing as we compare our voice to another’s.

Congregational singing is not a competition; it functions in the very opposite way, it unites us, encourages us, and functions to give praise to God. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

We sing what we believe as the people of God. Songs and hymns express the faith and hope we hold deep in our hearts. Martin Luther gave the German people the Bible and the hymn book in their own tongue, “So that God might speak directly to them in His Word, and that they might directly answer Him in their songs.” The Psalms have been the people of God’s prayer book and hymn book throughout the ages.

Psalm 149 verse 1 says, “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.” Congregational singing is not about me and what I get out of the music, it’s about worshipping God, giving God thanks and praise, bearing witness to the God. “They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.” (Psalm 138:5)

Together in song we thank God for God’s faithfulness and love. We build up one another’s faith and hope as remembering all that God has done for God’s people and the world. Congregational singing is our public witness. It proclaims and reveals the amazing love that our God gives to all. Long after the sermon is heard and many times forgotten, the words to our hymns and songs live on.

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Those songs of faith bring comfort in the midst of death and dying. When both my mom and dad were dying, we sang beloved songs of faith to them, songs like “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace.” What songs do you want to hear when you take your last breath? “Take Me Out the Ball Game” won’t do it for me. Those hymns and songs of faith that I learned in Sunday school and at worship are the ones that feed my soul. Even Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples before his betrayal and death.

The side benefits of congregational singing are that it reduces stress and calms us. Studies show that singing produces endorphins, which give us a lift and stimulates the same receptors as opiates.

Singing stimulates the side of the brain that speech and hearing cannot touch.

Worship is not a spectator sport. So we sing. Congregational worship and singing is a no judgment zone where we are free to sing to God and for God, and God delights in the praises of his people. I applaud you who come to worship and do a counter cultural act, singing in public. Even if you feel like you are making a joyful noise, your participation gives praise to God and nurtures the body of Christ. Through your song God is transforming the people of God and the world. Psalm 147 verse 1 says, “How good it is to sing praises to our God, for God is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.” Sing to the Lord!

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Pastor Brad Ulgenes has been pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church for more than six years. His partner in the gospel and in life is Elaine. He enjoys music and sings in the Helena Symphony Chorale.

 

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Copy Editor at The Independent Record.

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