Monday, September 14, 2009

Singing to God

Read this the other day and couldn't resist sharing it. It's from a commentary on the psalms by Augustine.

'Sing to God a new song, sing to him with joyful melody.' Each of us tries to discover how best to sing to God. We must sing to God, but we must sing well. God does not want his ears assaulted by our discordant voices. So sing well, my brothers and sisters, sing well!

If you were asked: 'Sing to please this musician,' you would not dare to do so without first having had some music lessons, because you would not want to offend such an expert in the art. An undiscerning listener does not notice the faults that an accomplished musician would point out to you. Who, then, offer to sing well for God, the great artist whose discrimination is faultless, whose attention notices the minutest detail, whose ear nothing escapes? When will you be able to offer him a perfect performance so that you will in no way displease such a supremely discerning listener?

Augustine goes on to tell us that in fact we should be bursting out with joyful song like harvesters in the fields, and I can't help feeling that this is a somewhat naive picture - can't help thinking of all these sore backs and aching muscles and the harvesters too exhausted to sing. But there are days when I think of poor God with his fingers in his ears.

Cosmically speaking, of course.


  1. This ideal of doing your best to avoid displeasing God sits ill with me these days! "When will you be able to offer him a perfecvt performance so that you will in no way displease such a supremely discerning listener?" Err...never? So why even bother?

    It is the fact that we offer imperfectly but with true devotion that pleases God, not that we get the notes and timing right. I'm delighted with the Eric Morecombe approach: "It's all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order, Mr Preview!"

  2. Sorry Chris, but it's this sort of stuff that stops people singing in church. St Auggie got a lot wrong! I'd rather we all had a good sing that leave the joyful songs to our "betters".

  3. You chaps will note that I offered this passage more or less without comment. I will simply add that you are tending to ignore some people in your rush to inclusivity - and at the risk of being outrageous, might ask Kenny to think about the joys of silence.

  4. OK. I'll shut up in future. I'm one of these that God needs the earplugs for. I know.

  5. Well, I was given a book once called "How not to say Mass" which included the instruction "not to sing if you can't. There is nothing less edifying than a sung celebration led by a pastor who can't carry a tune in a bucket!"