This is the third week in a sermon series on Epiphanies.
Epiphanies are moments of “aha!” and moments of connection with the presence of the Divine. In the past when I’ve asked people to tell me times when they’ve felt the Spirit I’ve often gotten blank stares. “What do you mean feel the spirit? I just go to church and sing and pray… am I supposed to feel something?”
In my humble opinion, we’ve all felt the touch of God, we’ve all plugged into that spiritual electricity, people just don’t necessarily know that’s what it is. My hope was that this series would help people identify the presence of God through real experiences – creativity, art, music and poetry. The more conscious we are of the paths that the Spirit can take to touch us, and the more conscious we are of God in our lives on a daily basis, the more in tune we will be with the Divine and the more that will manifest itself in our lives in positive, healing ways.
Music is a part of almost every spiritual tradition… from Native American chanting, to Jewish cantors, to Gregorian chants and Taize music, there are the whirling dervishes of the Sufi, choirs and bell choirs, Kirtan music of the Hindus, orchestras and bands. In every age, every culture and every religion, music has been deeply woven into our spiritual lives.
You may or may not know that the chapters in the book we call Psalms were hymns; songs of praise as well as songs of lament. They were poetry that was sung or perhaps chanted. The Hebrew word Selah occurs 71 times in 39 of the Psalms and was most likely a musical direction of some sort. And the Psalms themselves call us to make music.
In fact, the Bible is full of stories of music.
- After the Israelites left Egypt, Moses and the people all sang a song of triumph and praise to Yahweh. (Ex. 15:1-18)
- Again, after the flight from Egypt, Miriam (Aaron’s sister) gathered up the women who then danced and played tambourines while Miriam sang (Ex. 15: 20-21)
- David played his harp or lyre to King Saul to soothe him (1 Sam 16:23)
- David and all the people celebrated with songs, harps, lyres, tambourines, rattles and cymbals (2 Sam. 6:5)
- In Matthew, after Jesus has shared the bread and wine with his disciples, they sang a song before going out to the Mt. of Olives (26:30)
- In the NT, Paul exhorts us to sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs
And this is just a small sampling!
Music helps us to feel. It is an emotional language, and as such links us to the depths of ourselves and has the ability to link us to something greater than ourselves.
While playing music, or listening to music alone, can be wonderful, it adds so much more to be playing as part of a band (or orchestra), or singing as part of a choir or part of a congregation or audience.
Playing with a band, as I have on and off for 10 years now, has often been an amazingly spiritual experience. There are times when the music comes together, the harmonies meld and flow, and the boundaries between one another become permeable. For a few moments separateness disappears and we are one with each other. The same thing happens when an audience is swept up in the swells of a great piece of music.
In both cases our vibrational energy increases, the group is brought to a higher level of awareness and spiritual experience. It is a spiritual high. It doesn’t matter if it is an upbeat piece of music, or a sorrowful one, something about the melodies and harmonies, and probably the heart of the musicians, draw the pieces of our lives together to a deeper place. Some of us experience this as goosebumps, some as tears, some as awe or euphoria. Whatever the case, I’d call it a Divine epiphany… we are no longer individuals, we are more, or one, or all.
The church has had its opinion about the type of music that “should” be played in worship… it had to be “sacred” music… something that sang about God, or was felt to be “appropriate” to play for the Divine. Hymns about God, or classical music, or chanting. In the 1950s most churches condemned rock ‘n roll and dancing as being of the devil. It wasn’t until Vatican 2 (1965) that the Catholic Church revised their stance on music and allowed guitars and more folksy music in the mass.
In my opinion, if music lifts our hearts and souls, if it connects us on a level of joy and celebration – even if it doesn’t mention God – then it is sacred and filled with the Spirit. If music has deep meaning, makes us stop and think, connects us to deeper feelings that are more mellow or even sad, and draws us together in that deeper emotional place – even if it doesn’t specifically talk about God – we are experiencing the Divine as our connection to one another. The music draws us out of our egos and into a deeper place.
Yes, secular music can speak to us in a spiritual way!
And then there is the ability of music to heal. Music can lift us out of a bad mood, or help us to mourn, express sadness or celebrate with joy. In 1 Samuel, David played his harp to help King Saul with depression, making him a music therapist!
Music therapy includes creating singing, moving to, and/or listening to music to help with healing, cognition, and communication. It is used in many different settings for many different reasons including: hospitals, schools, hospice care, for people fighting cancer, for kids with autism, for Alzheimer’s patients and women giving birth.
Julia Cameron, in The Vein of Gold, says, “Music speaks to the wounds we have no words for. It heals where all else fails.”
Here’s another thought… we may not be able to play a musical instrument, or sing a note, but our voices are still our instruments. Our words carry vibrations and energy that are positive or negative. We are all capable of sending out healing words to others and the world. Or not.
Music is sacred. It is a window to the soul and a window to the Divine. It provides us with epiphanies – transcendent experiences of connection to God. I encourage you to recognize the spirit that is present when your heart is touched through music. And I encourage you to use music to heal and energize yourself and others.
Love & Light!