Make Music to the Lord
By the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Massachusetts, June 6, 1999
Psalm 33:1-11, 20-22 Sing
joyfully to the Lord
Sing joyfully to the
Lord, you righteous;
It is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
Make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
Play skillfully, and shout for joy.
For the word of the Lord is right and true;
He is faithful in all he does.
The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of his unfailing love.
By the word of the Lord
were the heavens made,
Their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
He puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth honor the Lord;
Let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be
He commanded, and it stood firm.
The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
He thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
The purposes of his heart through all generations....
We wait in hope for the
He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
For we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
Even as we put our hope in you.
Revelation 15:2-4 A
song of praise to the Lord
And I saw what looked
like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had
been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name.
They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God
and the song of the Lamb:
Great and marvelous are
your deeds, Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.
Who will not honor you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you,
For your righteous acts have been revealed.
#8337.2 Music and spirit
It is well-known that
some types of musical instruments are used to express one kind of natural
emotion, and other types to express other kinds--and that when an appropriate
melody is played, it actually does stir our emotions. Skilled musicians know all
about this, and make good use of it.
This comes from very
nature of sound, and its connection with our emotions. Humans first learned
about music, not from science and art, but through the ear and its sharp sense
of hearing. So it is clear that our musical ability does not come from the
natural world, but from the spiritual world. It comes from the correspondences
of things in the natural world with things in the spiritual world, which flow
into them in an orderly pattern.
Musical harmonies in
their various forms correspond to states of joy and gladness in the spiritual
world. And states of joy and gladness there spring from people's loves--which in
that world are loves for what is good and true. So we can understand that
musical instruments correspond to the joys and pleasures that go with spiritual
and heavenly emotions.
Sing joyfully to
the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the
Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a
new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the word of the Lord is right
and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and
justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. (Psalm 33:1-5)
Last weekend I had
the pleasure of being on staff for the Memorial Day Youth Retreat co-sponsored
by the Swedenborgian Church Youth League (national) and our Youth League here in
Bridgewater. Thirty-three young people and staff gathered at Blairhaven Retreat
Center on Kingston Bay for a weekend focusing on the topic, "Music and
Spirituality." There were a lot of people there, a lot of energy, and, of
course, a lot of music!
Today we end our
regular church year on an upbeat note (excuse the pun!) by focusing our service
on music, spirit, and, of course the Lord. I would like to thank our special
musicians today: Patty Woofenden on flute and Ted Foster on piano and organ.
Music isn't something we can just talk about. Music is something we have to experience!
In fact, as
Swedenborg points out in our reading from Arcana Coelestia, music did not
come from some scientific study of the effect of tones and rhythms on human
beings. Nor did it come from a conscious effort to create a musical art form.
Both science and art can help us to develop our music. But even today,
when science and art have progressed to an impressive level, the inspiration for
practically all music still comes directly from the human heart, and is guided
primarily by the human ear.
This is another way
of saying that music is an expression of our spirit. Music expresses the
feelings in our souls--both positive and negative--and communicates those
feelings in a way that can stir the same feelings in others. Instrumental music,
especially, is almost pure feeling, with only the structure of the music to add
an element of human thought processes; whereas vocal music combines the thought
and poetry of words with the emotions of melodies and harmonies.
In other words, music
"corresponds" to the deeper songs of our hearts and minds. This is not
a mere mechanical symbolism, but a genuine correspondence: the music is an
actual expression in outward form of the deeper feelings and thoughts within us.
We do not have to be trained in music theory to know when a piece expresses
happiness or sadness, grief or joy, exultation in victory or the crush of
defeat. These feelings are right in the music, and they stir the same feelings
in us when we hear the music--if we are in a state of mind that can be receptive
to those feelings.
Yet Swedenborg brings
us even deeper than seeing music as an expression of our inner loves and
emotions. In a step upward, he ties music specifically to our spiritual