Season after Pentecost, 2023
Eastertide: a season for singing
Easter is a time for singing. On this day we shout “Alleluia!” and sing “Jesus Christ is risen today.” The season that follows (the “tide” in Eastertide) flows out of our most holy feast day and gives deep meaning to our worship together.
It is highly appropriate that we sing together in worship as Christians, even though we do surprisingly little singing in our daily lives in 21st century America. Even the baseball game, the basketball game, and the NASCAR race, which have long been bastions of “secular congregational song,” have fairly recently been taken over by that amplified American idolatry of the microphone.
[A notable, recent exception:]
The services in our church may in fact be the only place that you regularly sing in your life. And I want to tell you that even if it’s the only place you sing, it’s okay to sing in church – it always has been, and it always will be.
Consider the words of John Wesley, writing in a hymnal from 1761: “Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.”
Consider the anecdote of young American composer Charles Ives, who as a boy complained to his father about the off-key hymn singing of the town blacksmith. His father said, “Don’t listen to the notes, or you might miss the music.”
St. Augustine proclaimed that he or she who sings, “prays twice,” and there is no place where we should be more free to pray and sing than in our church.
Even if you really think you can’t sing, please follow along in the hymnal, and allow yourself the opportunity to try. At the very least, you may find richness in the words of the hymns and songs of our faith that you did not expect.
The joy of singing in community is that we all sing together: those of us who have sung for years, and those of us who are learning the songs for the first time; those of us who enjoy the sound of our own voices, and those of us who would prefer that others not hear us. In community, all voices are heard as one, and all rely on one another. We are all free to join the rising tide – the Eastertide – of song.
Not only that, but we join our voices with those whose voices we cannot hear: the saints who have gone before us, and the angels who perpetually sing around God’s heavenly throne.
It may seem odd to speak of taking up your cross in Eastertide, but the empty cross proclaims Jesus’ resurrection. I would emphasize Wesley’s words: if singing is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing. Don’t let yourself miss the music for the notes.
You will find singing a blessing, and the church will find your singing a blessing, as we bless God together.
Excepting the embedded YouTube video, this article is reprinted from the Epistle, the newsletter of St. Paul's, Richmond.
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