To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.
– Psalm 46:1-2 (NRSV)
Really, psalmist, you’re going to choose the tune Alamoth for this? What’s wrong with the good old fashioned Shiggaion? Nobody sings the old songs anymore…
It’s a tricky thing. Personal, tender. Music in worship, I mean. Nothing can bring the hard feelings out faster than the question of what kind of music there should be in worship. What is a classic to one person is totally unfamiliar to another. Rhythms that sound off-putting to me might be a blessed sound of home to you.
It might feel to you like there’s just no winning! It might feel like there is no way to keep the audience happy!
And by the audience, of course, I mean God. Lucky for us, keeping God happy with our worship does not require perfection. God has the seraphim constantly singing Her praises with angelic strains. We’re not going to out-do the angels as far as perfection goes. That’s not what God is looking for from our worship … not as far as I can tell anyway.
When human beings come to worship God—with our humanity and our imperfections, our slightly unhinged tambourine aficionado who has a great idea for the hymn introit, our pipe organs with another stuck cipher even though we just had it tuned—these things are music to God’s ears. God loves them because they are, well, deeply human.
And God loves humanity.
God of the Shiggaion and the Alamoth, of the electric guitar and the pneumatic organ, get a load of this tambourine solo.
Rev. John Edgerton is Senior Minister and CEO of Old South Church in Boston. He is the 21st Senior minister in the congregation’s over 350 year history.