In the mid-nineteenth century, King Karl XV of Sweden was petitioned to forbid a man named Ahnfelt from preaching and singing the gospel in Scandinavia, and so Ahnfelt was called before the King to plead his case. Ahnfelt was justifiably worried by this, but being a man of passion for telling the story of his faith, asked a friend of his named Lina to write a song for the occasion. Several days later, she handed him this:
Who is it that knocketh upon your heart’s door in peaceful eve?
Who is it that brings to the wounded and sore the balm that can heal and relieve?
Your heart is still restless, it findeth no peace in earth’s pleasures;
Your soul is still yearning, it seeketh release to rise to the heavenly treasures.
As the story goes, the King listened to this with tears in his eyes, and said to him, “You may sing as much as you like in both of my kingdoms!”
It’s not the first time a King has been brought to tears by music.
Music is one of the most powerful forms of art there is. Not a culture on earth goes without some form of music. Each is unique, created in different contexts with different instruments and voice types and environments, but all express the most raw emotions of our communities and the very core of who we are as individuals. Music is identity, told through stories. When we share our music with others, we share ourselves with them. Music done well can bring Kings and Peasant alike to tears, to repentance, to action.
Our music will always tell at least a part of our story. Sometimes those parts are full of wonder. Other times they’re full of pain, joy, or awe. Sometimes the story we tell is one of action and commitment. Sometimes it's one of renewal, restoration, resurrection. And the best stories get told through songs over and over and over again, spanning generations and cultures and continents. See, good worship is a missional practice, and good mission is always a worshipful one. The two cannot be separated; if a Church engages God, they will engage their community. They can't not; it's natural. There is an intimate connection between the way a congregation worships together and the spread of the gospel.
A story full of good news is, after all, meant to be shared.
The way you sing this week can change the way you live out your faith. What you sing and how you sing it can change the community around you. If you let it. As the scripture says, sing to the Lord a new song. Sing the same story, tell a new chapter.
May you sing well.
Sing a new song to the Eternal; sing in one voice to the Eternal, all the earth. Sing to the Eternal of all the good things He’s done. Enlighten the nations to His splendor; describe His wondrous acts to all people. For the Eternal is great indeed and praiseworthy; feared and reverenced above all gods, the True God shall be. For all human-made, lifeless gods are worthless idols, but the Eternal plotted the vast heavens, shaped every last detail. Honor and majesty precede Him; strength and beauty infuse His holy sanctuary. Bless His name; broadcast the good news of His salvation each and every day.