I have always wondered if a caveman — most likely a cave woman — just missing being eaten by a T-Rex, hummed a tune and that was the beginning of music. I am not sure if he or she had words to the tune like, "I'm so glad that the big lizard ate she and not me … dum ditty dum." Don't get me going on what I think the first "rock" band resembled.
Anyway, I believe that God made his creatures with an innate sense of joy that just had to be expressed, and that expression is called music, which can be played, sung, shared and spontaneous. Now, some folks seem to have a natural ability to sing on pitch, understand the complexity of music theory and even do the Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop on the downbeat. Some folks couldn't sing their way out of a paper bag if there were a hole at both ends, but that certainly doesn't stop them from having one real good time at a hoe down.
I remember a parishioner who asked me, "John, why must we have music at a funeral? I am here to grieve and not to praise God for taking my loved one from me." I think she had a good question and I hope my answer was acceptable. "I find myself tearing up when I hear 'Silent Night' or 'White Christmas.' There is something about the hymn, 'In the Garden', that is both full of joy and yet full of compassion that makes me smile and cry all at the same time. And, I cannot imagine a funeral or a church service without the music of 'Amazing Grace."'
There is nothing more powerful than the moment after the darkness of the burial service when the family, surrounded by friends and loved ones, feels closure and beginning all at the same time. I believe that is why God gave us the light of music rather than leave us in the darkness of silence.
I have not counted, but there must be more than a thousand references to music in the Bible. While some may argue that even though the Bible speaks of music at a wedding or a funeral, no one should relate that to praise of God because those events were more social than religious. I personally can't imagine any part of life that is not religious, so I'm not too sure where some are coming from.
My theology says that music is a form of sacrificial giving to God. "Whoa, John, have you left your marbles on the shelf back home? Sacrifice is the ritual giving of life, money and time to God." Perhaps I should use the word "praise" rather than "sacrificial giving." After all, we all understand praising God with our tithes, offerings, liturgies and attendance.
We also understand where Amos was coming from as he prophetically rejected the "noise of our songs and the sound of your instruments because the hearts of the people were not obeying the will of the Almighty.
When I was a small boy attending that little church in Hudson, North Carolina, I learned the hymns I still sing today. I may have put a nickel in the plate, which was pretty good for a kid who worked all week for enough money to see a movie and have enough left over for a Coke and a candy bar. What truly gave me a sense of belonging to God was when I could sing at the top of my voice, "The Little Brown Church in the Vale."
Music has been with me from my beginnings and will be with me forever.