Sing for Your Neighbor

Jonathan Kohlmeier

The Fifth Sunday of Easter is called "Cantate Sunday." Cantate means "sing!" It comes from the introit appointed for the Sunday, "O, sing to the Lord a new song! Alleluia! His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. Alleluia!" (Psalm 98:1-2).

If you have a good voice or a bad voice, if you can read music or not, if you've been singing in choirs for years or have never had any experience singing under a director, sing!

I'm not going to tell you that God needs you to sing praises to Him. I'm definitely not going to tell you that if you aren't singing as loud as you can the Spirit isn't really working in your heart. But I am going to encourage you to sing. Sing in church. Sing throughout the week. Sing for your neighbor. Even sing for yourself! I don't care if it's "good" or completely off key.

As you look around the church on Sunday morning you'll see all sorts of people whom God has placed in your life so that you might sing for them. In the pew ahead of you is the elderly couple who is losing their eyesight and can only sing the select stanzas that have been imprinted upon their minds throughout the years. To the left is a family whose father has fallen asleep after a long, hard struggle with sickness. Their voices break as they hit some of the lines they need to hear the most, "It was a strange a dreadful strife when life and death contended. The victory remained with Life the reign of Death was ended" (LSB 458:4). Sing those words for them. Sing it even if you can't hit the written notes correctly.

Behind you there are little children who can't yet read, who are counting on hearing you sing so that they may know the treasure of the churches hymns too. Your singing teaches them to confess your shared faith.

If you ask any young child who is regularly in church and whose family regularly makes use of the hymnal what their favorite hymn is, not only will they tell you but they will be able to sing the first couple stanzas! They likely can't read the words or the music but have come to know them both by heart because they have heard their parents and others sing them. Sing for your littlest neighbors in the pew and who you see throughout the week.

Your pastor needs you to sing, too! Even if it sounds terrible and nowhere close to the melody the way that it is written, at least trying to sing it will encourage him to pick the really good hymns that may have a more difficult melody. He also needs to hear the words of the hymn stanzas when he's distributing the Lord's Body and Blood or at other times when he doesn't have the opportunity to sing. Sing for your pastor.

As you sing, even if you're flat or sharp or monotone, it encourages those around you to sing as well. That is a gift to you!

If the time comes when you can no longer see the words in the hymnal and can only remember some of the hymns that you've been singing your whole life, your neighbor will be there to sing for you. When you are facing the death of loved ones, when you lose your job or your house, when the changes and chances of life completely overwhelm you and when you try to sing the words and they just don't come out, your neighbor is there to sing the treasures of the church for you! When your voice gets stuck in your throat as you hear 1,000+ youth belt out "A Mighty Fortress" at a Higher Things® conference, your neighbor is there to sing for you! When you bring your own young children to church you can rejoice that the whole congregation is there to help teach your children the faith.

So, sing! Love your neighbor by singing for them. Sing hymns throughout the week with your neighbor and for yourself! Sing the hymns that talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you—and for your neighbor, too! Then, when you go through trials and temptations, when you get sick and are near death remember that the church is there singing with you, singing to you, and singing on your behalf.

Jonathan Kohlmeier is a member at St. Paul's Lutheran Chapel and University Center in Iowa City, Iowa. He is also Webmaster for Higher Things. You can email him at jonkohlmeier@higherthings.org.

Created: April 22nd, 2016