By Bethany Woelmer
You know who you are: the musician fervently practicing in your room when no one else is listening. The musician fighting to perfect those precious sounds and finding new ways to set them free. The musician whose talent is a bit rusty and unfortunately neglected, yet still there. There is something for every musician—a secret that we musicians must acknowledge.
And you, yes, you—the reader whose music skills are lacking and who are now considering turning the page with the assumption that this article provides no clear implications for your life whatsoever—you are part of the secret, too, so don’t feel left out!
There is a musician inside each of you. You’ve been caught tapping your pencil in the library to the beat of the music streaming through your headphones. You’ve sung those famous pop songs in the shower, in the car, and in web-cam videos with friends. You’ve picked up a harmonica or ukulele to discover that inner voice of harmony and rhythm. Don’t deny it. You are a musician. And that’s a good thing!
However, music is misused when the world teaches us its own theology apart from God’s Word. Too often are we swayed by the princes of this age and swept away with the passions of our flesh. Too often do we trust in the music that teaches us false notions apart from the truth and that honors self-worth apart from Christ. Too often do we neglect the beauty of music found in the liturgy and hymns that proclaim the words of Christ and carry them to our ears.
And what about you, the well-known musician, seeking glory for yourself through your talents? What about you, the musician who would rather boldly sing in the car yet utter no song of praise in church? As sinners we develop pride through our efforts and glorify the means that help us attain self-gratification and accomplishment. As sinners we fall short of the glory of God by our vain measures to succeed, and we fail once again by satisfying ourselves instead of serving the neighbor.
But here’s where the real secret comes out. There is a church musician inside every single one of you, struggling to be present in the community of believers centered around God’s Word. As God’s child, it is a natural response to sing about what He has done. When the Israelites safely crossed the Red Sea, they responded with a song of thanksgiving to God. Zachariah sang what is known as the “Benedictus,” and Mary sang what is known as the “Magnificat,” both of which proclaimed what God has done and continues to do for our salvation. The liturgy and hymns that present the Gospel to us also beckon us as God’s baptized children to sing the faith, whether we are a young child confessing “Jesus Loves Me this I Know,” or an adult seeking comfort in the words “Salvation Unto Us Has Come.”
The Gospel comes to us extra nos, meaning “from outside of us,” just as music enters our ears to calm our sadness and turn it into joy. Luther said that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. It comes to us as a gift, just like the Gospel. Through faith, music is our prayer for peace, our bold confession, and our desperate plea for mercy that cries out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross for our salvation, we are free to serve our neighbor in our many vocations. Just as God has given us the vocations in the workforce and at home, He has offered many possibilities in the church to use our talents for His glory and for our neighbor. As musicians, the possibilities are endless. We are free to bring out that dusty violin, warm up that glorious voice for the choir, ring some bells, or even utilize our keyboard skills to learn the organ. There is no stage or spotlight for musicians in the church. Our humble abode is in the back, from which God’s music is directed toward the message of Christ on the cross.
Even if you are in the pew, you have the vocation to sing God’s Word that the musicians in the back, specifically the organist, do not always have the chance of singing. The words sung by the congregation of believers enter the ears of musicians and proclaim to them God’s love through Christ. We are all part of the Body of Christ, partaking in the gifts of God and singing as a witness in faith to one another. With the whole company of the heavenly host, we can join together with our voices and instruments, praising God and saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Hosanna in the highest.” May God bless you as you sing and play music to His Holy Name.
Bethany Woelmer is a freshman at Concordia University Wisconsin and is studying Parish Music. She can be reached at email@example.com