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By In Podcast, Worship

Episode 19: A Mighty Fortress, Then & Now

A Mighty Fortress: Then & NowIn this Reformation Day episode of the Kuyperian Commentary Podcast, Jarrod Richey discusses Luther’s original version of the hymn “A Mighty Fortress.”

Unless you grew up in a Lutheran church, chances are that you’re singing quite a bit different version of that great hymn of the Reformation, Ein feste burg ist unser Gott or A Mighty Fortress is Our God. This great hymn based on Psalm 46 has a story that the average evangelical Christian has not heard. Here’s an audio post with sound clips explaining how this hymn has changed over the years. There is more that could be said and those who could say it more eloquently, but my hope is that we can begin to better appreciate this hymn in ways we hadn’t before.

Also, Here’s a link to the PDF of the Lutheran version closest to what Martin Luther penned:

 http://kuyperian.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/AMightyFortress-Lutheran-LETTER-.pdf

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By In Music, Podcast, Worship

Episode 8b, Fighting Musical Relativism in the Church with James B. Jordan

In part two of this series on music, Jarrod Richey again interviews James B. Jordan, scholar in residence at the Theopolis Institute (Birmingham, Alabama) and founder of Biblical Horizons.

On this podcast, Jordan addresses the question of the appropriateness of music in worship, the use of chant in the Protestant tradition, and musical instruments.

Jordan makes the argument that “worship shouldn’t sound like the rest of the week.” He acknowledges that this often makes modern worshippers uncomfortable, but points to John Calvin’s example of teaching the Genevan Psalter, then strange and unfamiliar to the adults, to children. “Do you want you children growing up not knowing the psalms?” asks Jordan. “Or are you willing to set aside what makes you feel good for the sake of your kids?”

Demystifying chant, Jordan points out that part of the problem is the English language itself. He explains that “other languages don’t have two different words for sing and chant.” Jordan surveys the various Protestant uses of chant and explains the surprisingly recent history of what we think chanting sounds like.

Finally, James B. Jordan offers practical wisdom for pastors and worship leaders on how to develop music in their local congregations. “Don’t do anything that calls attention to yourself,” says Jordan, who prefers to see the leaders in worship as servants, not performers. On the issue of instruments in Worship, Jordan playfully tackles to the controversy of guitars and explains how the pipe organ most fully respects the orchestral dignity of the worship service.

Subscribe to the Kuyperian Commentary Podcast on iTunes and Google Play.

About James B. Jordan

James B. Jordan Theopolis Biblical Horizons His father was a professor of French Literature and his mother a piano teacher and a poetess. Jordan graduated from the University of Georgia in 1971 with a degree in Comparative Literature and studies in music and political philosophy. He finished his master’s degree in systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia and was awarded the D. Litt. degree from the Central School of Religion, England, in 1993.

Jordan is the author of several books, including The Sociology of the Church (1986); Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World (1988); Creation in Six Days (1999); and several books of Bible exposition, worship, and liturgy.

Music:

Psalm 119 – Psalm Sing, Christ Church, Moscow, ID.
Rendition of Psalm 119 by Dr. David Erb.

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By In Culture, Music, Podcast

Episode 8, Fighting Musical Relativism in the Church with James B. Jordan

In part one of this series on music, Jarrod Richey interviews James B. Jordan, scholar in residence at the Theopolis Institute (Birmingham, Alabama) and founder of Biblical Horizons.

This podcast on “fighting musical relativism in the church” is a discussion about a Christian theology of music, how to read the Bible’s musical themes, and developing mature church music.

Jordan also discusses the historicity of the psalms and how music shapes our theology.

Subscribe to the Kuyperian Podcast on iTunes and Google Play.

About James B. Jordan

James B. Jordan Theopolis Biblical Horizons His father was a professor of French Literature and his mother a piano teacher and a poetess. Jordan graduated from the University of Georgia in 1971 with a degree in Comparative Literature and studies in music and political philosophy. He finished his master’s degree in systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia and was awarded the D. Litt. degree from the Central School of Religion, England, in 1993.

Jordan is the author of several books, including The Sociology of the Church (1986); Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World (1988); Creation in Six Days (1999); and several books of Bible exposition, worship, and liturgy.

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By In Culture, Music, Worship

A Mighty Fortress: Then & Now

A Mighty Fortress: Then & Now

Unless you grew up in a Lutheran church, chances are that you’re singing quite a bit different version of that great hymn of the Reformation, Ein feste burg ist unser Gott or A Mighty Fortress is Our God. This great hymn based on Psalm 46 has a story that the average evangelical Christian has not heard. Here’s an audio post with sound clips explaining how this hymn has changed over the years. There is more that could be said and those who could say it more eloquently, but my hope is that we can begin to better appreciate this hymn in ways we hadn’t before.

Here’s the direct link to the audio file: http://kuyperian.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/EinFesteBurg-ThroughHistory.mp3.

-Jarrod Richey

P.S. – Here’s a link to the PDF of the Lutheran version closest to what Martin Luther penned:

 http://kuyperian.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/AMightyFortress-Lutheran-LETTER-.pdf

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By In Music, Worship

Pipes Worth Playing: Four Lost Lessons from the Pipe Organ

PipesWorthPlaying-FeaturedImageI know what you’re thinking. Organ: funeral, ball game, grand dusty cathedral. Why should modern Christians of such a technological age revisit a thousand year-old instrument? Don’t worry, I will not be trying to punch another hole in my Weird Music Preferences and Opinions card here. The truth is, our Christian culture is missing out on one of the great blessings to the Christian church, an instrument with capabilities that lend both strength and maturity to how we worship. Only a caricature of what it once was, the pipe organ has endured a history that has left it unloved or at best uninteresting to most Evangelical Christians in America today. By remembering its origin and the theology connected to its design, we can push air once again through the pipes with joy!

First, the pipe organ was built for the Christian church.

It was installed into the actual walls and framework of protestant and catholic churches and cathedrals throughout western civilization. No other instrument is installed with such permanence. This is not an argument of who had it first, rather this is a call for Christians to revisit the value of this instrument not in the narrow light of its present-day uses, but in the broader light of history. The pipe organ’s design was intentional, purposeful in church worship, and ever pointing to God as no other instrument was made to do.

Second, the pipe organ highlights God’s diligent sovereignty in creation.

  All is lifeless without His hand as the organ does not spontaneously create music without a master’s hands. The hundreds of pipes and sound combinations require the fingers of a master musician on the keyboard manual and the subsequent inspiration of air through the bellows and pipes. The hollow tubes of metal and wood stand dormant until this inspiration gives way to sound. The pipes of various lengths and sizes remind us that through the multitude of layers in God’s created order, all come under submission to the composer and chief musician who gives them life and purpose. The pipe organ’s bellows moving air through flue and reed pipes much like the human lungs moving air through larynx and vocal reeds is a creational model of the Holy Spirit breathing life and transforming cacophony into a symphony of sound that proclaims his goodness and glory. (more…)

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By In Culture, Music, Worship

It’s A Musical Life

It's A Musical LifeAll of history and the Christian life can be described as a divine musical. Think of our generation as a modern, global cast of characters in the most recent grand production. We are playing our part in the story, the themes having already been introduced by the master playwright years ago. Alas, we are not following the script as closely as previous casts were careful to do, and the current cast has a slight issue, our modern actors have all but lost the musical ability to perform the roles. You can imagine the difficulties there. To compensate, the modern cast and crew have seen fit to edit and rework the musical by removing the most challenging and recognizable music numbers and replacing them with dialogues and diatribes requiring less time and coordination to perform. They are spreading the word that singing and dancing are optional skills for performing in this musical. And, if that were not enough, the cast has collectively decided to meet and rehearse their lines when they wish or at home rather than be bothered by the imposition of rehearsing when the playwright and director call rehearsals.

What the current cast does not grasp is that they have lost both the inspiration and the ability to perform the musical with a devotion to the author’s story. This particular rendition is rather fragmented and clunky, lacking in flow and rhythm. Things are falling apart. Rather than refine and restage the story as previous iterations of the cast, they have extracted difficult sections. The flow and beauty of the playwright’s original script is disconnected, detached. We, as the real live cast of this story must decide what to do, how to respond to our own mess.

How Will We Respond?

First, as Christians in a musical story since creation, we must repent of our arrogance, refusing to acknowledge and give thanks for the previous generations of actors that have been faithful in retelling the story. We must see ourselves as conduits and participants in a message that is outside ourselves and bigger than ourselves. We must see the value of our small part in the story that is being told, see it in context. If we do not perform well, how will the next cast stand on our shoulders? But in order for all this to happen, we must know how to meet the bar already set for us and raise it.

Second, we must realize that this is, afterall, a musical and it calls for a lot of singing. God rejoices over his creation and the story that he’s telling with song. Zephaniah 3:17 says that he “joyfully sings over us,” his actors, in the midst of this musical drama. Not only that, but he has made us as his image bearers and given us the tools to sing in similar joyful ways. This is no small task and requires much work. This means that all of us should be trained in music to some degree so that we can more fully participate in the musical roles that God has for us. At the very least, we are called to be part of the chorus ensemble numbers on Sundays, and see to the training of the next generation of actors as well. We should be able to sing and dance in such a way that points to the Master playwright, the Triune God, and He is no amateur.

Third, our unity as a cast, as a body, depends upon our rehearsal together. The culmination of knowing, rehearsing, and fellowshipping in the author’s words makes that possible. If you’re like me, it always seemed a bit funny when the dialogue in a musical would suddenly break into spontaneous song and dance, until I realized that the song and dance was only spontaneous to me as a member of the audience looking on. The world now is our audience. The only way to be a unit, the only way to not step on your neighbors toes, the only way to jump from dialogue to song is to practice together. The music must be so familiar that the singing happens naturally, simply an overflow of our hearts.

The comparison of our life to a musical should cause us to review the musical language that is present in the scriptures from cover to cover with a mind to take back up our callings as singers. Consider the songs of Miriam, Deborah, David, the Psalms, Zechariah, Mary, the Angels at Jesus’ birth, the songs of Paul and Silas, and even the songs of those surrounding the throne in the book of Revelation. Think about how the joy we have been given through salvation in Jesus Christ demands far more than systematic responses of faith and affirmation written down on paper only. Our joy and thankfulness should spring into song and dance.

________________

Jarrod Richey currently lives in Monroe, Louisiana with his lovely wife Sarah and their five children. He is both the Director of Choral Activities and Pre-K4 through 12th grade music teacher at Geneva Academy. In addition to this, he has been on staff at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church since 2005 handling both church media and choral music responsibilities. Jarrod has recently founded Jubilate Deo Summer Music Camp in Monroe, LA that seeks to train joyful worshippers and young singers. For more information on the camp visit, www.jubilatedeo.org. He is also featured in an upcoming Music Education Discussion titled, “Recovering Music Education in Christian Education” from Roman Roads Media.

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By In Culture

Of Course, the Lame Can’t Waltz: Refocusing Current Music Discourse in the Christian Church

Guest post by Jarrod Richey

Asking why the church doesn’t sing hymns or even why men don’t sing in church is a bit like lamenting over the lame man who can’t waltz on the dance floor. While it is a valid question, the more immediate question would seem to be, “why doesn’t the lame man walk?”

There have been a number of blogs and articles of late noting the lack of singing from Christian men in the church today. While there is plenty of commentary on the reasons for this, most of the analysis, I find, skips over the fundamental reason which causes such problems in the first place.

Remembering the basics

I am reminded of the well-known anecdote from hall of fame Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi. After a demoralizing defeat, he gathered his football team around him and cited the need to get “back to basics.” He then lifted a football he was holding into the air and calmly said, “Gentlemen, this is a football”. Likewise, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves when it comes to music in the life of the Christian Church. We must make some similarly rudimentary explanations for music in the church.

Johnny can’t sing hymns because Johnny can’t sing

I’m thankful for the dialogue generated by books like T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns. But before we question why Johnny can’t sing hymns or why men don’t sing in churches today, we must simply ask and answer the more fundamental question, “Why Can’t Johnny Sing?” It almost seems too simple to ask, but it is precisely the question we need to answer in our present musical discourse. But it must be addressed if we are going to reverse the modern musical trends in the Church.

The proverbial Johnny has not been trained to see the importance of music and singing in the creation in which he lives. As a result, there is little importance given to the training in music and in making music as a response of praise. I don’t want to start up a debate on music form in hymn styles, etc. Rather, I want us to back up and rethink why we are not training our children to sing at all. When we do have music programs and curricula in our schools, we often miss the mark in training our students to be singers who are able to use their voices skillfully in praise to God. Instead, despite good intentions we are only giving our students a survey of music. They are not given the tools to be music makers themselves. They are only able to speak about composers or significant points in music history. That is not what we want to settle for in the long term. Rather, we want to be able to “sing praises with understanding” as the New King James Version of Psalm 47:7 exhorts. As we grow in our understanding of who we are as children of God, we must grow in our understanding of what it means to better reflect the glory of the Triune God. The God whose glorified speech created the heavens and the earth from nothing is the same God whose glory echoes throughout creation.

God sang creation into existence

It is not adequate enough to say God spoke all things into existence. We would do well to refine that it means that He sang this glorious melody of life, and it continues to echo to His praise and glory in a grand symphony. He set the temperament, tuned the world and is continually tuning the world. Therefore, it is our business to view ourselves as part of this symphony. How we live each day is a part of the gospel harmony on a macro level. But at the micro level we must not miss the opportunity to resound the triune melody in new and more glorious ways. Music making is the tool for that. What a joy to grow in how we reflect the musicality of God. He creates; we go forth and “wee-create”. In singing and making music, we are being like God, and we are better able to exhibit what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. This is why we must train our students to be such re-creative singers.

The First Steps to Change

To start, we’ve got to put music back in the Christian school and homeschooling co-ops. Beyond that, we must have pastors and elders who exhort their flock to be like God, who joyfully sings and enjoys all of His creation singing back His praise. When we start, we must start small. Instead of viewing music as an artistic aside, we must think of it as language-like, in that it has components and tools that must be studied if proficiency is to be achieved. In other words, we must have students trained in music literacy in such a way that they can read, write, and sing (or think) in terms of music. This doesn’t mean they have to be career musicians. It means that our people will be musicians simply because they are humans made in the image of the Triune God. If the Lord calls them to a vocation in music, then we should value and encourage that. But we should not resist the idea of music training because we have a stereotype of what it means to be a career musician.

So, if you are reading this and think, “we’ve got to do more, but what first?” then you need to have someone help teach your folks to sing. Have your kids in music lessons, find courses on singing and reading music. Have folks who have experience in Kodály or other music philosophies that can give children to adults the sequenced tools that will enable them to grow as singers first and musicians second. That’s where you must begin. Then, if you are older, you must pour your energy and resources into the younger ones in your family and church. Use what provision and means you have to help others come to a better understanding of music than you have currently. This after all is what we are about as Christians. We are seeking to move from glory to glory. We want our children and our children’s children to build upon our strengths and understanding to new and more glorious ways of living and serving their creator.

Do not be discouraged. Do not be grumpy. We must not forget that The Lord is working his purposes out in his own timing and purpose in regards to music and singing. Our job is to be thankful in all things and to press on to see a more faithful generation that will seek to reflect God’s glory through faithful living and praising our Creator in songs and hymns and spiritual songs.

Jarrod Richey currently lives in Monroe, Louisiana with his lovely wife Sarah and their four children. He is both the Director of Choral Activities and Pre-K4 through 12th grade music teacher at Geneva Academy. In addition to this, he has been on staff at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church since 2005 handling both church media and choral music responsibilities. Jarrod has recently founded Jubilate Deo Summer Music Camp in Monroe, LA that seeks to train joyful worshippers and young singers with the above goals built in to the very core of the camp. For more information on the camp visit, www.jubilatedeo.org or search Jubilate Deo Summer Music Camp on Facebook.com

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