Monday, June 8, 2009

6/9- Calvin and Rock and Roll

(Genevan Psalter)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Ephesians 5:19- Make music in your heart to the Lord.
I Chronicles 15:16-22 16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals. 17 So the Levites appointed Heman son of Joel; from his relatives, Asaph son of Berekiah; and from their relatives the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah; 18 and with them their relatives next in rank: Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel, the gatekeepers. 19 The musicians Heman, Asaph and Ethan were to sound the bronze cymbals; 20 Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah and Benaiah were to play the lyres according to alamoth, 21 and Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, Jeiel and Azaziah were to play the harps, directing according to sheminith. 22 Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.

Calvin: I Greet Thee who my sure Redeemer Art my only Trust and Savior of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake; I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.
Thou art the King of mercy and of grace. Reigning omnipotent in every place.
So come, O King, and our whole being sway; Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.
Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness, No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness.
O grant to us the grace we find in Thee, That we may dwell in perfect unity.
Our hope is in no other save in Thee; Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure, That in Thy strength we evermore endure. (1551 Genevan Psalter)

Abraham Kuyper in his “Lectures on Calvinism” attributed a huge change in singing to the Genevan Psalter. He points out that the major music at the beginning of Calvin’s day was the Gregorian chant that had abandoned rhythm and harmony. However, the common music sung in plays and in bars did not abandon rhythm and harmony. Louis Bourgeois, Calvin's friend, took the rhythm and harmony into church. If this didn’t happen, I wonder if rock and roll would have occurred. Many musicians and singers today began singing hymns in church. Louis was one of three composers for the tunes of the 1551 Genevan Psalter (along with Guilliam Franc and Pierre Davantes). Calvin approved and even helped write the above song. One of the classic works is “Old Hundredth” that is the most used tune of the doxology. The Genevan Psalter was used by the Pilgrims in America, the Puritans, the Scottish Presbyterians, and the Reformed Church of England. The catholic Council of Trent forbade such common songs which were seen as beneath the artistic dignity of the chant. It is similar to some forbidding praise songs in church today. Calvin believed that the music should not obscure the words, and the words should be understandable (and in the language of the people- not Latin). Calvin, did not forbid four part harmony, but preferred single (monophonic) voice. He downplayed instruments in music not because he disliked instruments. He saw music as a gift of God. But he wanted the words to have precedent, so that music is less subjective and more instructive lifting our hearts not only up- but lifting them up to God. Calvin recognized the gift and the power of music. Early Calvinists were known for singing psalms even in tough circumstanes.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of music and singing. Put a song in my heart today of praise to you.

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