Tracing theology and place of music in worship

 

As people drift in into Msamba Catholic Parish church in Lilongwe, one can notice the brightening up of their countenances as they respond to the melody and rhythm that soar from the choir.

Phillimon Msonda, a resident of Area 24 in Lilongwe, says good music has power to excite, console, cheer, tug at the heartstrings and simply take listeners’ breath away.

“Music, both gospel and secular, has a special power that soothes one’s heart,” testifies Msonda.

The Bible is full of the musical praise of God. Singing was part of Israel’s formal worship in both tabernacle and temple (1 Chronicles 6:31-32, 16:42).

Psalms of David bear rich testimony that in joy and sorrow, in praise and lament, the faithful raise their voices in song to God.

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On the other hand, Chronicles contains detailed instructions for the music of the Solomonic temple, and the Psalms are peppered with references to music in the adoration of God, culminating in the paean of praise, which is Psalm 150.

Indeed, the Psalms—from beginning to end—are a continuous song of praise (in sadness, and in joy).

The poignancy of music is illustrated by David’s soothing harp playing for King Saul, as well as by the hymn-singing (probably the traditional Passover sequence, Psalms 113–118) of Jesus and His disciples as His hour of crisis loomed.

From time immemorial, people have sung in praise and worship to God.

In the Old Testament, music played a number of different roles, including assisting in the memorisation of God’s truth and in reminding God’s people of their fallenness and salvation.

Music further expresses thanksgiving to the Lord as evidenced and recorded by Exodus 15.

The verse in question tells a story of Moses and the newly redeemed people of Israel who are responding to their miraculous escape through the Sea of Reeds and the destruction of the Egyptians with antiphonal praise.

“I will sing to the Lord,” sing Moses and the Israelites in verse 1. “Sing to the Lord,” replies Miriam in verse 21, and literally answered them to the accompaniment of tambourines and dancing.

In the New Testament, on the other hand, God’s people gather to express their praise to Him and to build one another up in the faith.

A rich variety of music that is in harmony with the ministry of God’s word is a significant part of the life of the church and points to the role of music in our praise of God in heaven.

In short, singing is the highest form of human expression.

On the local scene, Great Angels Choir has been one of the choral groups in the country, which have remained steadfast in moving Christians from one level to the other through their talent.

Leader and founder of Powerhouse Community Outreach International Ministries, Pastor Clement Nkhoma, notes that music has enormous power to engage the emotions, and that the Bible resounds with praise and thanks to God through music.

Nkhoma says it is based on this premise that he, too, has recorded a 10-track album titled Chitsitsimutso.

He believes the music will help him spread the gospel far and wide and even beyond his jurisdiction.

“This album is an inspiration from God because it has always been His design to see serve and save everyone, including those that live far from my jurisdiction.

“Through this album, I wish to share with mankind the love of God and enable them partake of His goodness through this music,” he explains.

Songs in Chitsitsimutso include Thanthwe Long’ambikatu, Ndaima Nji, Yenda Iwe Yenda, Pokhala Mtendere, Ndili Nkuza kwa Ambuye, Bwenzi Lathu Ndiye Yesu,Sing’anga mkulu, Chitsime Ndi Chokoma, Msandipitilire Yesu, and Kulibe Bwenzi Longa Yesu.

Nkhoma says the title, which means salvation, engages believers’ emotions by means of voices, instruments and movement, which are matched by propositional content, and recounting of the salvific deeds of the Lord.

He believes that, in turn, this will lead to the listeners’ and believers’ affirmation of trust in the Lord for his future faithfulness to his people.

“Just as gospel music was designed to move mankind from one spiritual level to the next, so my album has been designed to soothe rejected and dejected souls, comfort the downtrodden and heal drug-resistant wounds,” he says. n

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