I have been a member of the Pilgrim Chorale here at First Church for three years now, and I joined because I enjoyed singing and liked music in general. I have been very active in church all my life, going through Sunday School, Confirmation, and now choir. My three years in choir have been a joyful experience. Music brings light to the ears of the Congregation, in my opinion. In fact, Frederick Buechner writes, "The music of the psalm is so lovely that it's hard sometimes to hear through it to what the psalm is saying." Indeed, some of the music we sing here is lovely. I love listening to the tune as well, just like Frederick Buechner. The tune plays a part all in its own. However, it is also very important to listen to the words as well. When I practice the songs in Rehearsal, I gain more from the words each time I run through them. I learn from these words as I concentrate on their true meaning and what they really will mean in the community of First Church.
The three functions music has in the church are prayer, community, and education. In prayer, we can know that God will be with us even in times of despair, like death, divorce, or even worse. In the book of Job, Job is deprived of everything he had, but he still knew that God was there. Because of his faith, God gave him twice as much as he had owned before. Prayer definitely paid off. Many can put prayer to music, such as what the writers of the book of Psalms decided to do. Music adds so much more liveliness and hope to the words in the prayer. Music can carry the point across even more. Music is lovely; there is no doubt about that. What we have to pay attention to is the tune and the words.
Music takes its part in our community as well. You notice that only on rare occasions does one person sing alone in our church. We always sing as a group of people. A group not only makes the sound louder and the tune more lovely, but a group also points out to us that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. Unique voices add to that group, such as our four voice ranges; Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. Imagine trying to sing the Hallelujah Chorus all by yourself. It is impossible because of the separate voices needed. And when you hear it as a group, the music is lovely. Hardly ever do we sing alone. In the Bible, as well, music is presented in groups. In Revelation, there are seven trumpets, not one playing when the Lamb opens the seven seals. And there is not one person singing praises to God in Heaven, but a great many. Lastly, think of how in the Christmas story a multitude of heavenly hosts was praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace with good will towards men." Nowhere do I recall a single soul singing out alone, but rather a group of two, three, or even a hundred.
In the opinion of psychologists, people learn things much more easily when they are set to music. Sometimes when I am studying for a test or quiz, I set a phrase to a random tune that can help me remember the words. Repetition is a key when I study, and repeating short little songs can help me remember material. Young children learn to sing the alphabet through music in a tune that you are very well familiar with. This same pattern applies to church music as well. Little children in Sunday School and Choir learn a simple tune called, "Jesus Loves Me." This simple tune portrays a similar simple message: Jesus Loves Me. By teaching this phrase to our children, they learn how Jesus and God will love them no matter what happens. Also, later in the song a verse states, "…for the Bible tells me so." This teaches young children to trust what the Bible says. Because the Bible says that Jesus loves me, then it must be true.
As more time passes and our children grow older, the music becomes more and more advanced. As this music becomes more complicated and involves more words than just a simple tune, we learn more about God, our church, and how both of them can help us develop our faith. Faith, which can be translated into "trust", is the most important aspect of a church.
I have just graduated the Confirmation process and became a member of the church earlier this month. Through my two-year Confirmation process, I learned valuable things about my faith and my relationship with God. My ministers helped me establish my faith in such fascinating ways. They let me take part in worship services, including Communion on Mother's Day, writing and reading the Easter Sunrise Service Sermon this year, and taking part in many dramas and scripture readings before that. I am very thankful to be a part of this wonderful church as well as its music ministries, headed so wonderfully by Mary Nelson and Jim Balmer. Today let the real meanings of music touch our ears and hearts, let prayer comfort us, let our community join together as one, and let us be educated by the sound and words of music in the years to come. Amen.