One of the greatest thrill of Annual Conference is when the clergy gather together for the executive session and we stand to our feet and sing Charles Wesley’s, “O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” It is a beautiful sound, as around 700 United Methodist preachers sing in harmony the words of Charles’ best known hymn.
I have served congregations were the people loved to sing, and others where, well let’s just say that wasn’t their forte. In the United Methodist Hymnal John Wesley’s Directions for Singing are listed on page vii. I find it a bit humorous that these directions would be posted some 208 years later in the latest edition of The United Methodist Hymnal. I will not list them all but will point out a couple that have helped me as I have been both a leader and a participant in the worship life of the church.
Rule number three is important. “Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.” Well, this rule goes against the notion of worship in most of the seeker sensitive churches in North America. Worship is not about us. Singing is not always about what makes us feel good. It’s about offering our hymns and songs to God. We may not feel like singing. We may not want to sing, or we may not like the song that is being sung, but we sing it knowing that is our duty and a reasonable spiritual sacrifice, Your not into sacrifice? Take that up with Jesus the one who sacrificed all so that we might have forgiveness of sins.
I always get a chuckle out of direction number four. “Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor no more ashamed of it being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.” I’m confused does The United Methodist Church still believe in Satan? Oh, I’m sorry I forgot thanks for reminding me that we still do believe in Satan.
The last direction that Wesley gave sums it up best, “Above all sing spiritually. Having an eye to God in every word that you sing. Aim in pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature.” Wesley puts it all into perspective. It’s not about us, it’s about God. The next time you as you stand to sing the first hymn, think about Wesley’s Directions for Singing and I’ll guarantee our singing, our worship will become more real and authentic, Just something to think about on this the first day of Summer…