So, today we celebrate John’s service to this church for forty years, and to the church universal for so much longer than that, and we say thank you for that.
What I want to say, briefly, is something about why that service matters so very much. Music is not just a pleasant thing to have in worship, not just something that makes a pleasant noise to mask the passing traffic, but an intrinsic part of worship. I’m going to suggest a few reasons why:
Music Inspires Worship
All music is inspiring – in one way or another. Some music inspires work, some sleep, some depression, some a headache, and some worship. Throughout the Bible, not just in today’s readings, we can read of music inspiring worship. Inspiring music reveals God and points us to him. As we make music for God, the Holy Spirit inspires us through that music to encounter God.
Music Facilitates Worship
I’m not a very good singer, and I know it. But I can still let rip in worship! And I’m glad. Music can help us all to worship with all our might.
Music Guides Worship
We heard Paul’s advice to the Colossian Christians, and that shows us two directions for our worship: speaking to one another, and to God, and we do both through hymns. Whether we are singing to God, or about God to each other, the point is – we sing the songs we sing in a given service for a reason. Follow the music, it will guide you. Expect something to happen as you do.
Fourth, Music Informs Worship
Many of the hymns teach us theology. It’s often said that we Nonconformists get our hymns from our theology. Think about the words we sing. Do they express things we don’t express another way? Do we believe what they say?
Music Enriches Worship
If any conversation should be a beautiful one, our conversation with God in worship should be, and music is what makes it beautiful. Our worship is about the presence of God, and that is made much more evident through good music.
Music Becomes Worship
In worship everything becomes an offering to God. Everything we do in this space is about God. Every note played on an instrument is an offering to God. Every word spoken is an offering to God. Every word sung is an offering to God. The ultimate role of music in worship is to become worship.
May we allow music to fulfil its role in bringing us into the presence of Almighty God in worship.
This is what John has been doing, for forty years here with the title of Organist, for lifetime in so many places. This is just as important as any preacher. Today we say thank you to John, with the hope of many more years to come, and thank you to god for all that he has accomplished through John.