One of the things I love about The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings is smoke, ale, and song. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing smoking or excessive drinking, but I am endorsing time spent with friends, telling stories and singing songs. There is something about taking a break on pilgrimage in the midst of orcs and goblins and the occasional troll, and writing a song or poem and sharing it with friends.
I don’t know if this is simply nostalgic musing or not, but there was a time when Christians sang at the drop of a hat. We sang at picnics, we sang at home meetings, we sang at Sunday morning gatherings – and we sang songs that could be sung by nonprofessionals, we sang songs that could be sung by folks not vocally gifted. People used to hunger for new lyrics, sharing them with each other like a hot tip on the stock market. Guitar or not we sang.
A while back I decided it would be good if our church leadership meetings incorporated singing along with prayer. So one meeting night I asked, “Who has a song he or she would like to lead us in?” The response I received made me feel like I was on a country road at 2:00 A.M. and had just come upon deer starring into my high beams. What was particularly interesting about this group was that it included four members of our musical/vocal worship team. Since no one had a song to sing I reached deep within and started singing – I figured if they didn’t know the words immediately that after the twentieth time they’d begin to pick things up.
Not long after that I was on retreat with a few pastors and after a meal one of us suggested that we sing – while it wasn’t quite as bad as with my church leadership group it still had its challenges. We could have used some Hobbits, Elves and good Dwarfs with us to propel our voices.
The Scriptures encourage us to live life “speaking to one another in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord,” Ephesians 5:19.
Has singing been removed from the fabric of congregational life? Are we so accustomed to highly orchestrated and arranged music that people no longer feel comfortable giving voice to lyrics? If “Praise & Worship” has been relegated to sets of music on Sunday morning then perhaps we can learn something from Bilbo, Frodo, and friends – for it appears that they were never at a loss for a song.