“Scripture reading, song, and prayer should be part of daily morning worship together. Daily morning worship will take as many different forms as there are communities…the word of Scripture, the hymns of the church, and the prayer of the community should form a part of every daily worship that they [the community] share together.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 26 – 27.
We are no longer a people who sing, we have become a people who listen, and in listening to music and lyrics we, in spite of our protestations, limit our participation in worship. Yes, we can open a hymnal and sing on Sundays or gaze upon a screen and sing the words, but are we singing throughout the week and are we singing as we meet and greet one another? When we gather for prayer meetings or small groups are we singing? In the mornings do we lift our voice in singing praises to the Trinity?
My recollection of church history tells me that significant seasons of renewal and awakening are accompanied by singing, that God’s people cannot help but sing when they are renewed in their relationship with Him. I have noticed that many of us are no longer inclined to sing and I wonder why. Is it because we have abandoned singing to the professionals and to the vocally gifted? Is it because the words and music of many recent songs do not lend themselves to singing by average people? Are we so self-conscious that we have lost our voice when we are outside church buildings in which our voices are hidden among many?
I have been in many home gatherings where singing was central to the feast of koinonia, whether or not the group sang well – for what is singing well if it is not singing to the Lord? All singing to the Lord is singing well. And so should I not sing to the Lord at the break of day? Should I not lift my voice, whether in key our out of key, in praise to the God who has given me another day in which to worship Him, love Him, and serve and love others?
Perhaps a good question when we meet one another is, “Brother (or sister), what have you been singing lately?”
A challenge when reading this section of Life Together is that it is focused on Christians living in community, in close relationship and proximity to one another. Bonhoeffer envisions Christians gathering together at the beginning of each day to worship – this is difficult when people live apart and not in close proximity to one another. How can we respond to this challenge?
On the congregational level we can encourage early morning gatherings, whether at a church building, at offices, or in homes; whether these are daily or weekly. By doing so we teach and model a way of life in Christ and in life together. We can encourage families to begin their days with the Word, singing, and prayer. We can encourage individuals to do the same. We can teach early-morning worship as a way of life, we can model it, we can walk alongside others as they learn it.
Parents can learn to speak the Word to their children and to engage their children in worship before they leave the house and go into the world, thus hopefully instilling a sense of mission and calling and witness and holiness. Spouses can offer themselves to the Trinity at the start of each day, asking God to draw them ever closer to Himself (and to each other) and to walk with them and talk with them throughout the day; asking God that their marriage reflect Christ and His Bride. Those who are single can worship with the assurance that they are part of a family that transcends the ages and that even as they lift their voices to God that around the world, at the very same time, their brothers and sisters are doing the very same thing and that they are not alone, but that they have myriads upon myriads of family members.
We must recover the early-morning ground that we have lost. We must love one another enough to challenge one another in discipleship. It is not acceptable not to read the Word of God, it is not acceptable not to pray with our (believing) spouses and with our children. It is not acceptable not to give God the firstfruits of every day. We must recover our voices and learn again to sing praise to God, forgetting about how we sound and simply yearning to offer our love and adoration to the One who gave His all to us and for us. It is not enough simply to read a verse or two of the Bible and to think that we have eaten a healthy meal. We were created in the image of God to worship and love God with all of our heart and all of our soul and all of our mind and all of our strength – anything else in the early morning is a distraction.
The fabric of life together is woven in prayer, the Word, and singing praise to God; the community of Christians is to be a worshipping community – worshipping in the Word, in prayer, and in song. The first moments of the day are critical – it is where we take our stand for the entire day, it is where we set our course, it is where we declare our testimony, it is where we proclaim that the day belongs to God and that we will offer the firstfruits of that day to Him.