August 2020 Letter to the Congregation

My Dear Friends,                                                                                August 2020

We’ve made the point before that human beings are rankers – always fashioning this or that top-ten list.  John Elway and Peyton Manning are the top two quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL, but who’s #3?  And #4?  Can someone send me the list of the top ten tile installers in Framingham?  What are the top three dog breeds?  You get the point – we can’t stop our grading!  So on to the next…  

The seeing eye and the hearing ear – the LORD has made them both.  Which is to say, we are designed to observe, to take note, to attend.  Just being stuck in our minds isn’t optimal.  No, we’re meant to regularly leave behind all those scheming and griping and desiring inward voices… and look outward. Ahh!  Let’s try it.  Just for a second, look up from these words and look around and find something interesting, maybe even wonderful.  

Perhaps a garage door painted in French Country Blue.  The split-second shadow that shows up on the grass from a bird flying overhead.  The old neighbor lady’s immaculately maintained geranium pots.  A copper valley on a roof that is just starting to oxidize.  Those cobwebs overlaying parts of the hedges that occur every year at mid-summer.  The dog asleep on his back on top of the air conditioning vent, his legs sprawled hither and yon unashamedly exposing his underside, head cocked to the side with tongue drooping out of the mouth, his dog dream producing the occasional tremor.

Yes, there are plenty of things to notice, and sometimes what’s noticed is worthy of comment.  We open our mouth to exalt, to raise awareness, because we think, what we have seen or heard shouldn’t be obscured.  To return to our first paragraph – we have noticed something that is extra-ordinary, that ranks higher than other somethings, and we are compelled to raise others’ attention to this elevated object.  This wonder shouldn’t be kept to ourselves.  Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together.

Yes, we’ve been talking worship here.  Noticing, ranking, drawing others to join in our noticing and ranking – these are the items of worship.  Humans were made to worship.  We fell: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  But then God elects and calls and justifies and regenerates a people – and all to recall them back to their first vocation: WORSHIP. 

EBC: look, notice, comment, magnify the LORD’s hidden work, so that others might see it too.

Much of the work of the Lord is hidden only because eyes are dull and hearts are thick.  If only we will open our eyes, we will see the great works of God.  This is especially true in New England, where we have four distinct seasons when different features of God’s creation are on display.  Just run your mind through the year: Hoarfrost.  Maple sap.  Forsythia.  Azalea.  Hydrangea.  Rose of Sharon.  Sunflower.  Autumn foliage.  Get outside and drink it all in brothers and sisters – it’s all for you to enjoy and notice… just don’t forget to attribute!  

Also in cosmopolitan Boston, we get to see the variety of shapes and colors and character among the image-bearers of God.  At our last home we were neighbors with Greeks, Irish, Norwegians, and Vietnamese.  Now we find ourselves next to Italians and Chinese (others yet to be determined).  The Italian proximity has already yielded gifts of garden vegetables.  Thank God for all kinds and sorts of people!

So, much of our worship takes place within the daily routine; we’re discovering the wonders of God hidden in the uneventful.  But our worship can’t be limited merely to owning a keen eye among the mundane.  Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised.  The high eminence and magnificence of our God obliges us to respond to him in ways that are special, out of the ordinary, heartfelt, engrossed, artful.  

In short, we should make music to God.  

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Do you know what all these instruments are?  A lute is nothing close to a flute, but more similar to a guitar.  The “pipe” is not something you smoke, but something that air passes through – think of a recorder or a bagpipe or even a pipe organ.  (I knew all of these Psalm 150 instruments except for the tambourine.  But after a quick google search I recognized the hand percussion instrument, just didn’t know its name.)

Worship eventually entails music, and the more musical instruments put into the service of praising God, the better.  God wants to hear a variety of sounds in his honor.  

Can we dip our toes into the philosophical for a second?  God has made us to be priests.  We stand between the creation and God, summoning the creation (even the angels!) to worship God, even arranging for them to worship God.  And think – what materials are musical instruments made with and played by?  Sheep (guts). Metals.  Elements of hydrogen and oxygen.  Wood.  In music, the image-bearer priest is directing all of these creatures to join him/her in worshipping their Creator – EUREKA!  

Of course, it’s one thing to rhapsodize about worship and music making.  But actually, what we’re talking about involves a lot of work and time and money and space and inconvenience.  Worship is easy; preparing for worship is hard.  And a lot of the difficulty is borne by the family.  Worship is a cottage industry that produces something worthwhile, but only after a lot of investment. 

Think about the labor: Find money for lessons.  Find a teacher.  (Pro tip: look for a woman from the old Soviet bloc.  They’re strict.  Serious.  And dismissive of sports and all other endeavors that don’t serve The Music).  Take child to lessons every week.  SIT THROUGH EARLY RECITALS (groan, sigh, moan).  Stay on him/her to practice.  Learn to practice efficiently.  Keep pushing the student and, if necessary, the teacher.  Think through avenues to publicly perform.  And hardest of all: keep at it.  

Parents, put careful consideration into placing your children into music lessons.  If you do, dispense with the group classes (not as effective) and find a teacher.  Make sacrifices of money and time – remember worship is the end game and God is great!  Don’t cave into their complaining about practicing.  Remember, you’re the adult in the room until they can be!  

Children and young people – up your practice time’s efficiency and focus.  And maybe add more too?  

Adults – maybe you should consider taking up a musical instrument?  Shane set us a good example by, as an adult, taking up the whistles and recorders.  And now God hears also that beautiful noise from 23 Chapel every Sunday!

As we enter the last month of summer break, our rejuvenated minds will begin returning toward the labor in front of us.  In that, let’s not forget the important labor of music, that “like a brook when it trips and falls over stones,” runs toward WORSHIP.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Landry

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