Last Saturday we were privileged to have the “Singing Saints” from Saint Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, MO sing at Immanuel. It was a wonderful experience. The concert itself was very good, and people were amazed that they sang everything from memory. We enjoyed hosting choir director Bill Gasau and his wife, Linda, and two of the girls from the choir at the parsonage. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Now, if I can just get the Seminary Kantorei to come!
Before the choir left, I had the chance to say a few words to them in the bus as a farewell. In addition to thanking them for coming and wishing them well on the rest of their tour, I told them that, whether they realize it or not, their faith is being formed by the words and music that they are singing. Lex orandi, Lex credendi. This was something that I discovered after singing first with the Concordia A Cappella choir from Seward, NE and then the Seminary Kantorei from Fort Wayne. At the time I didn’t realize it. But looking back I can see how my faith was being formed and shaped by the very words we were singing. I can’t tell you how often the words of Bach Motets and songs by Hassler, Gretchaninoff, Mendelssohn, and many others have “bubbled up” in my memory and out of my mouth. How often, in times of trouble, have I begun singing, “Despair not, my soul, nor to sorrow give way”? Those songs and those words become a part of you, and I would not trade that time that I spent in choir with Ed Martens and Kantor Resch for anything. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that about 70-80% of my growth as a person and a Christian in college and seminary was due to my choir experience, and not just singing, but interacting with other singers, and learning from the great experience and knowledge of our directors. I hope that the singers from Saint Paul’s High School will have the same experience that I did.
This rule applies in a negative way too, which is what I have been trying to teach to the sheep entrusted to me for eleven years now in the Ministry. If you give them fluffy and unorthodox words to sing, then they are going to have an equally fluffy and unorthodox faith–a faith that will quickly wither in times of testing and trouble. So often, people think that we are being too nit-picky with the kind of songs and music that we give to the congregation and to the children to sing in Sunday School and VBS. But there is a reason for this. We pastors are arming our people for spiritual warfare with the devil, the world, and their own sinful flesh. Dare we send them out into that war with spiritual “Nerfguns”? Hadn’t we better arm them with weapons that will actually do damage to the Enemy? Hadn’t we better teach them songs and hymns that follow the “pattern of sound words”?
Lex orandi, Lex credendi. It is a true axiom. It is not only that the way we pray reflects our belief. The way in which we pray also forms our faith, either negatively or positively.