Music and Missions

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As a church musician, I am playing the piano in worship every single week. Several times a week. While worship should come from the heart first, music is such a wonderful ministry to be apart of for the many reasons. There’s something different about singing a prayer, or hearing a song that brings lyrics to mind. We dwell on it just a little longer.

I am constantly trying to give my students opportunities to use their abilities for the Lord, if they ever have the opportunity. Once a year, I schedule a “Sacred Music Recital” at our local retirement community. I am always encouraging students to prepare a piece for church worship through special instrumental piece. Whenever I can get them to see that music is such a beautiful gift from God I am beyond excited. It is such a thrill to be a blessing to other people while using the gift God gave you. Especially when it relates to serving God.

We recently had a missions emphasis at my church. It’s big deal to us. We support many missionaries as a part of our private missions program. We had two missionaries visit us this past Sunday, one a missionary to Ireland and another wanting to start a church right outside of Boston. Our music was centered on missions with the adult and children’s choir singing a special and an international lunch where everyone brings a dish from a different country. It is always an exciting time! Each week our church takes up an offering and usually myself or other instrumentalists will play a special piece during that time. It is wonderful to be able to participate in worship in this special way. I played my arrangement of the well known hymn “Send the Light”. I want to share the lyrics with you below.

 

There’s a call comes ringing o’er the restless wave,

Send the light, Send the Light,

There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save,

Send the Light, Send the Light

{Chorus}

Send the Light, the blessed gospel light,

Let it shine from shore to shore!

Send the Light, the blessed gospel light,

Let is shine forevermore!

 

We have heard the Macedonian call today,

Send the Light, Send the Light

And the golden offering at the cross we lay

Send the Light, Send the Light

{Chorus}

Let us pray that grace everywhere abound,

Send the Light, Send the Light

And the Christ-like spirit everywhere be found

Send the Light, Send the Light

 

Let us not grow weary in the work of love

Send the Light, Send the Light

Let us gather jewels for a crown above,

Send the Light, Send the Light

{Chorus}

 

The man who wrote this hymn is Chase. H. Gabriel. He was a self taught musician who wrote many hymns, songs and secular works. Send the Light was considered his first “successful” song. He was asked to write a missions song for Easter. A missionary heard it and took it with him on the the field. It quickly became popular and was published in 1891. It is considered “one of the best missionary hymns ever written.”

We do not know much about the back story behind this song but we gather from the lyrics it is based on Acts 16 when Paul had a vision of a “Macedonian man” pleading for help to spread the gospel. As I study Paul’s ministry and work, I am amazed of the impact it has on our current world.

Paul desperately wanted to reach the world with the gospel. He, Silas and Timothy were planning to go to Asia Minor (present day Turkey) but the Holy Spirit redirected them to the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea in a city called Troas. At this point, Paul was waiting on the Lord to tell him where to go. During the night, Paul had a dream of a man pleading with him to “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” (vs. 10) The Bible says “immediately” Paul and his friends took up the journey to Macedonia which if you know your geography, Macedonia is what we now call Europe or more specifically Greece. They stopped in Philippi, a Roman colony, where we see recorded the first convert in this region, Lydia, the seller of purple. (Acts 16:14). This area is known today as the “gateway to Europe.” Up until that point, the spread of the gospel stopped at Asia’s borders but because Paul obeyed the “Macedonian call”, Europe and later the colonies of America have “the Light”.

There is more packed into this hymn that I could write about. Mr. Gabriel wrote a jewel. What makes this hymn so wonderful, as many other songs and hymns, is the fact that is based on God’s Word. There is truth to these words. We may not all have visions in the night telling us to go across the world and preach the gospel, but we have God’s revealed Word to guide and direct us. We have “heard the call ringing over the restless wave”. How? Because we are all missionaries commanded to be a light to the world. (Matthew 5:14) The Light we are commanded to share (Matt 28:19-20), is Jesus, the Son of God.

I feel myself sometimes pushing that call away and telling myself it’s someone else’s job. The significance of the gospel does not ring as true because I live in a somewhat “Christianized” society but there are so many people still living in darkness. My job is not diminished simply because I live in a “nation founded on the Christian faith”, it is heightened because the call beckons to every Christian able to physically speak of the love of Christ. This song has been a challenge to me as I play it and reflect on the words. It brings tears to my eyes when I realize there are hundreds of thousands of people that have still never heard about Christ or have and just need someone to help them understand how much He loves them. The gospel is still as relevant and needed to be spread as it was in Paul’s day. Maybe even more so.

As I teach my students to learn to use expression and feeling in their music, most often I come back to a scared piece because I know that it is more that a few black notes written on a staff. Music put to words of truth have so much more meaning and depth. Music has such a profound way of making the truth revealed more powerful. It fills us with emotion and understanding, it expresses the deepest feelings in our hearts and speaks to us in ways that an orator or speech never could. As I compare the impact of music and the impact of mission work, I pray it speaks to someone about the call on their life. Whether a christian needing to heed God’s command to “Go” or someone searching for the Answer to their questions. The Light you are looking for is Jesus. Look no further, because He is there.

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