Tuesday, December 05, 2006

With One Voice -- the Singing Savior

I've had the book for about 6 months, but I've just not gotten around to it. This week I finally treated myself to starting through Reggie Kidd's With One Voice. Reggie was one of my profs at RTS. He teaches Pauline Epistles and Worship. On top of that he is the dean of the chapel, designing all the chapel worship services. I found his leading worship to be rich, thoughtful and Christ centered. His classes were a melange of art, music, scholarship, and spiritual exhortation. He came out with his work on worship last year, and so I'd like to process it together with you all.

One of the great things about Reggie is his lyrical writing style -- the man is a theologian with a poet's sensibilities. He begins with a quote from a sermon he heard once: "A theology that can't be preached is not worth having." and as he interacts with the quote he quickly tosses out the addition "A theology that can't be sung is not worth having either." Thus he begins what might aptly be called a theology of the heart. Before digging too deep into application, Reggie traces the Redemptive Historical line of singing through scripture and into the early church on to the Reformation and beyond.

In this first chapter, Reggie lays out this vision that our singing functions as a spiritual discipline to help us draw closer to God, it functions as a comfort in times of darkness (in this section he relates his own wrestling with melanoma and the experience of Eva Cassidy who died of melanoma -- a powerful tale of spiritual comfort in the valley of hte shadow of death), and it functions to help us hear the ongoing song of God (he gives the illustration of the barbershop quartet, which when they hit their notes just right, they hear a fifth voice -- “That aural illusion created by harmonics is, I believe, a divine whisper of something that is absolutely true of our singing when we gather in worship.” (citing Jesus leading us in worship as spelled out in Hebrews 8:2 and 2:12).

Then Reggie hits his stride as he lays out the missional purpose to our song. He asserts “disbelief today is not a function of logic; it stems from a loss of imagination.” (22) Reggie states that many students who hear faith assaulted in college acquiesce quickly because they have not seen the faith lived out in a community -- they haven't experienced a full-orbed, enfleshed living out of the faith that gives what thinkers call a "plausibility structure" to help concretely understand the ideas of faith. “…God’s people, gathered in life, in belief, and in worship, are his ‘plausibility structure,’ God’s people – loving one another, submitting to a common life, praising his name, and telling his story – are the case God makes to a watching world, both visible and invisible.” (23)

Reggie keeps pressing: “in the face of the deconstruction of the Christian view of reality, the great cultural task of Christians is the reclamation of the imagination. This needs to be worked out across a broad front – from the way Christians conduct themselves in the marketplace and in politics to the way they educate the next generations and shape their churches. As vital as anything is the way they engage the arts: painting, sculpture, literature, poetry, cinema, dance, architecture, and, of course, music.” (23)

And again: “Music opens the imagination to the possibility that what we see is not all there is. Felix Mendelssohn composed no religious works until he encountered Bach’s Passion According to St. Matthew – after that, his work was God-soaked. Our singing says clearly that all other loves are idolatries without the love of God.” (24)

Finally, he lays out the plan of the rest of the book -- not a theology of worship in terms of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. But rather a theology of worship that focuses on a Biblical picture of what the Holy Spirit does to us through worship.

I'm going to take this one slowly and savor it like fine Belgian chocolate -- likely doing a chapter a week. Hope you'll pick up the book and join the conversation.

Soli Deo gloria