This Friday evening, several hundred people will attend an inspiring musical event at River Road Church: a concert by the choir of the esteemed Lutheran college, St. Olaf, directed by Dr. Anton Armstrong. This world-famous choir will be performing in our sanctuary as part of their extensive 2017 choir tour. Martin Luther valued both music and education very highly. He was accomplished at the lute and the recorder, and he possessed a solid tenor voice. He was so committed to the role of music, that he demanded proficiency in music as a prerequisite for ministerial training. The following quote from the Forward to Georg Rhau’s Symphoniae, a volume of chorale motets published in 1538, demonstrates Luther’s attitudes concerning music:
“I, Doctor Martin Luther, wish all lovers of the unshackled art of music grace and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ! I truly desire that all Christians would love and regard as worthy the lovely gift of music, which is a precious, worthy, and costly treasure given to mankind by God. The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them…. In summa, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits…. Our dear fathers and prophets did not desire without reason that music be always used in the churches. Hence, we have so many songs and psalms. This precious gift has been given to man alone that he might thereby remind himself that God has created man for the express purpose of praising and extolling God. However, when man’s natural musical ability is whetted and polished to the extent that it becomes an art, then do we note with great surprise the great and perfect wisdom of God in music, which is, after all, His product and His gift; we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance, where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress and embrace. A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.”
As we can see Luther seldom help back when expressing his opinion on a given subject! More from Luther:
“Music is an outstanding gift of God and next to theology. I would not give up my slight knowledge of music for a great consideration. And youth should be taught this art; for it makes fine skillful people.”
Whether you are attending this week’s concert, attending the Washington and Lee Choir concert later this month, or absorbing the message through music that we experience in worship, I hope that music does indeed add a new dimension to your faith and your life.