THE NEW SONG AND CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
All of us know about the importance of Christian community and spiritual unity, at least in our heads we know it is important. But bringing that concept into our experience is another matter. It is too easy to see the faults of others (and overlook our own). Easily offended, we pull away and never experience the blessing of walking together with others in one heart, one spirit, and one faith. It is easier to walk away than to forgive (or maybe ask for forgiveness) than it is to press on and face the challenges and the blessing of human relationships. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of Christian community and the role worship plays in the unity of that community. Here are a few of his comments.
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Our song on earth is speech. It is the sung word. Why do Christians sing when they are together? The reason is, quite simply, because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because here they can unite in the Word. All devotion, all attention should be concentrated upon the Word in the hymn. The fact that we do not speak it but sing it only expresses that our spoken words are inadequate to express what we want to say, that the burden of our song goes far beyond all human words. Yet we do not hum a melody; we sing words of praise to God, words of thanksgiving, confession, and prayer. Thus the music’s completely the servant of the Word. It elucidates (clarifies) the Word in mystery.”
As we see our world becoming increasingly dark and dangerous, we see the need of strengthening our community of faith (we normally call it church). The bond that strengthens this family is the fellowship we have with the Holy Spirit that with share with our Christian community. Singing the new song of the Lord with our spiritual family is the place this bond of unity is formed. I think of the picture of the 120 priests singing and playing their musical instruments together at the dedication of Solomon’s temple. As they lifted up their voices in one accord something unprecedented happened, that building was filled with the cloud of God’s Glory. No one there that day could ever go back to life as normal. That was impossible, they had tasted something only found in one place. They had tasted the very life of their community. After all, the scripture says that God inhabits the praises of His people.