I wish I could sing well.
Wish I were a good singer. I’m just not.
I’d like to be. But I’m not.
I’m probably not going to get much better, either.
I’d like to think I have the ability, but just have never taken lessons to learn how.
But, really, I learned how as a kid on Sunday and Wednesday nights at church. Our piano player, Mrs. Smith, taught us well.
And I can read music, kind-of. I took piano lessons for maybe six or seven years as a kid. Mrs. Caruthers. I had to take my shoes off to go into her house, a different experience for a country kid.
I also learned by actually singing. I sing in the car, in the shower. I can do a great “Long December” by the Counting Crows. And I sound great doing a bunch of other songs, too. When I’m by myself.
For one of the congregations for which I preach in a prison, I lead singing when I preach (for it, about once a month or every other, pre-pandemic). This is the only place I recall ever leading singing. I give it a go, but I know it’s not very good.
I can’t sing well at all.
Make a Joyful Noise
Psalm 95:1-7, written, many say, by King David, as Hebrews 4:7 suggests, is an invitation to us:
O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. …”
Joyful? Joyful? Uh, oh.
How About Flat & Out of Key?
Members of my family are beautiful singers. My aunts sound great. I remember as a young boy regularly visiting my grandmother’s house and my aunts — three, four if all there — would gather in the den and sing. Usually fast and upbeat hymns, infused with a Pentecostal tradition, or well-known hymns.
“Amazing Grace,” of course, and others, and sometimes pop songs of the day, like “Country Roads, Take Me Home,” as we’re all country people and West Virginia was just up the road. My wife’s voice is beautiful. Our son is a great singer and participated in music groups in high school and college. My cousin is a star. Writes her own music. Amazing, really. Many others in our family sing well, too.
They all sound wonderful — in tune, harmonizing, on beat.
I, on the other hand, sing flatly and out of key. I like to say “I can sing one note and, when it comes around, I sing it with gusto!”
The “joyful noise” in Psalm 95 does not, I think, mean “in tune” or “on beat” or “exactly the right thing to say.” It means that what is described there is a joyful noise to the Lord.
That is, if you are singing to the Lord, it’s a “joyful noise” no matter how far off key.
We make that noise, not because God commands it, but because God is great. God made us, made our planet, make the mountains and the sea. God is worthy of our praise. God is a great mystery. It’s a gift to think to about God. And, thank God, we are God’s people.
So, we make noise and if it’s to the Lord, it’s a joyful one.
To One Another, Too
Ephesians 5:18-20 and Colossians 3:16 tell us that when we make that noise — when we speak or sing with psalms, hymns, and songs — we are not just communicating to God.
We are speaking to, teaching, admonishing, and encouraging one another, the Bible tells us.
For years, my wife and I would sit in front of an elderly couple at church, now deceased. Not many people sat around us. One reason is that the husband in the couple would sing loudly and was always — always — flat and off-key.
It was bad. Really bad. But he sang out.
When I say it was bad, I mean it was really, really, really bad.
He was an encouragement to me, another flat, off-key singer, though. He taught me, admonished me, spoke to me, and encouraged me with his singing. He never knew this, but he did. And I am sure God loved his singing.
So it was really, really, really good.
I think his was a “joyful noise.”
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Sources / Notes
All scripture quotes from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
This article includes part of a sermon I delivered.
Reference No. 9A
I’m pretty bad at singing. The Bible seems to encourage me to sing out in church anyway. What do you think?
Here’s a brief article discussing the question, citing some relevant scripture.
Image by DigiPD from Pixabay.