Not Just Filler

Written by Jaqi Gerbitz

My high school music teacher/choir director has a phrase which he drills into each of his students. If nothing else, the phrase “Hymns are not just filler!” will be hammered into your mind by the end of senior year. Until about a year ago, those words were just that. Filler.

One year ago I, and thirty-one other students from Immanuel Lutheran, spent our spring break traveling across the northern United States and performing concerts at various CLC churches along the way.

Congregation after congregation stunned me with their generosity. We were treated like royalty the whole week, fed like kings and pampered like queens. Families willingly opened their homes to a dozen teenagers without a second thought. Members were at church before the sun was up in order to pack us lunches for our long day on the road.

Throughout the trip God used one thing after another to display His glory. When I caught my first glimpse of the mountains, I couldn’t help but think of the psalm which one of of our songs was based on.

Psalm 121:1-2 – I lift my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

This reminded me of a hymnology lesson in which my professor stressed even more than usual that “hymns are not just filler.”

Isn’t it fascinating that God created each of us with a pre-installed musical instrument. How then, could we think that music is just a fun way to stay awake during a long service? God gave us the gift of music, not only as a means by which to praise Him, but also as a memory device and a wonderful fellowship opportunity.

Modern American Christianity will tell you that traditional hymns and liturgy are outdated and obsolete. Churches today are transitioning to a contemporary music and, a more “modern” worship service. And, of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong or sinful about this in itself. God doesn’t tell us we should only sing Luther’s hymns and they must be accompanied by a pipe organ. Far from it. God didn’t lay down laws about what to sing or how to sing it. At the same time, however, I think it is very important that we are extremely careful about what music we use in worship, both corporate worship and personal. We should choose music that is timeless. Music that we can teach our children, songs to pray when we’re not even sure where to start, hymns that aren’t just filler.

I don’t think there’s any question that it’s true, what they say about Lutherans being the “singing church,” and it’s no coincidence that we are. God intends for us to sing. To worship him in song. It has been part of Christian worship since the earliest days of Christianity. It’s easy then, to slip into a “We sing because that’s what we’ve always done” mindset, but don’t let that be the case. Sing because God created mountains and valleys. Sing your thanks for countless blessings. Sing because God sent His own Son. Sing because Christ took all the sins of the world on himself. Sing because He is alive. Sing because you’re saved.

Sing not because you need filler, but because you are filled.

Psalm 95:1 – Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.