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Those Who Have Ears….

Using our Ears


In giving us the Great Commandment, Jesus says in Mark that we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your  strength.”


Heart and soul and mind we understand. But what does Jesus mean by strength?

I think he’s referring not just to spiritual strength, but physical as well. We are to use our bodies to love and worship God, the bodies that God has given us All parts of our bodies are to be engaged in the great act of worship as we thank and praise God for all God’s benefits. In worship we are using all the means at our disposal to return to God, in greater measure, the love that, in Christ, has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.


And by the way let’s just think about what a blessing it is to have a body with which to worship! God did not create us as ephemeral spirits floating about in some netherworld. Instead, each of us was brought into God’s good creation in the possession of a one-of-a-kind body with which our one-of-a-kind soul is intertwined.


If you were to ask me how we use our ears in worship, I would plunge right into my favorite subject–music.   

I have to think that, of all the wonders of the universe, God must have been especially delighted by the creation of music.

Martin Luther, a skilled musician himself, recognized this for what it was. Luther wrote that music is a “fair and glorious gift of God.” He continued, “I am strongly persuaded that after theology there is no art that can be placed on a level with music; for besides theology, music is the only art capable of affording peace and joy of the heart.”

And what about music in the church? Luther also understood this well as
viva vox evangelii, the ‘living voice of the Gospel,’ the voice that praise God and proclaims God’s Word to the world.

What is this fair and glorious gift that we perceive with our ears?

The marvelous thing about music is that it requires human agency to unlock the unique communicative power of this art.

It’s true that, as Einstein said, “Everything in life is vibration.” And certainly the songs of the animal kingdom have their own kind of beauty. But humans have always been compelled to harness the power of successive and simultaneous tones, meaning melody and harmony, by weaving them into coherent patterns couched in dynamic forms. The miracle of music is that these patterns are then able to unleash a communicative power that reaches into the depths of the soul in a way that is even more transformational than poetry.

Music takes us to that liminal place where God and the human spirit intersect — where the heart of the living Christ finds the yearnings of the human soul. And it all happens through our ears.

How can we open our ears in worship more fully to the proclamation of the gospel through music? The answer lies not only in hearing but in doing. In Psalm 40, the singer recognizes that simply sitting and waiting is not enough. He must cry out for re-orientation back to God, for the same clean heart and renewed spirit that is our cry throughout Lent. Then, restored to God, his song goes on to inspire others: “Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord!”

This is why we sing songs of lament and praise not only in the privacy of our rooms but to each other in worship. In singing together the faith of our community is formed and deepened. When we sing together we are not only praying but preaching to each other.

In Revelation 3, John writes to church in Laodicea to light a fire under their lukewarm faith in the face of persecution. Stupefied by their wealth, the members of this early Christian community do not recognize what danger they are in from subversive forces all around them. Before all they are lost forever to the lure of riches, they can be saved by sound, John says – the sound of Jesus knocking at the door. If they can hear his knock, they will hear his voice calling to them. They will open the door, invite him in, and in return receive the promise of sharing the heavenly throne. All this happens through the ears.


When darkness or complacency or weariness threaten to overtake us, we too must not only open our eyes, but our ears. Christ is always knocking, but most of the time the noise of the busy world drowns out his gracious invitation.


What does the Lord require? God is not looking for us to bring sacrifices or good works, but simply a willing ear. Let the experience of music, especially music in worship, open the door of your heart to the living Christ. Then he won’t even need to knock – he can walk right in.

(Photo credit: Michael Maasen on Unsplash)