Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Then sings my soul

A week or two ago I watched a programme called “Why birds sing.” A man was setting out convince a number of scientists that birds sang for the pure pleasure of singing and not just for either attracting a mate or warning off rivals. He insisted that birds sang long after they had found their lady birds and the rivals had flown away. Birds just sang too much for that to be the only reason. One scientist stated that birds with the largest repertoire of songs get the pick of the ladies – they attract more attention. It is not just plumage or nest building that indicate a good gene pool, but also whether the male birds can sing a selection of songs. All these extra songs were just for practice.

At one point, our non-scientist man took a clarinet into the local zoo and settled down in front of one of the bird cages. It sounded pretty much to me that he and the bird were having a jamming session. He would start a musical phrase and the bird would bob his head up and down and join in. I suppose the scientists would say that the bird thought the clarinet player was a very shy lady bird to attract, or a very stubborn rival who wouldn’t fly off.

At another point in the programme he had persuaded a friend of his to re-enact a famous musical duet. In the early days of wireless, the radio people had recorded a duet between a lady on a cello and a nightingale in a wood. He had another cellist set up in a wood playing the same music and hoped that the nightingale would join in. After three hours of playing, the nightingale showed up and added his warble! But again, is it just for the sheer joy of singing or because he perceived the mate or the rival?

The scientists remained unconvinced.

In so many areas of life what happens in the natural world has something to say about what happens in the spiritual world. As people we sing for a million different reasons. In worship we often think about singing, with the words of a song, as a way to draw closer to God. OK, it is more than just the singing – it is the heart attitude, the desire to worship. We seem to use worship to draw close to God - but what about the chasing away rivals? What about worship to send the enemy packing? I am not sure that the lyrics of many of the current worship songs are up to it!

I can remember many years ago, a worship leader recognising that we were all tired and battle weary in the meeting. There are songs that you could choose that I class as “comfort songs”. They assure you that you are the Father’s child, that God is your strength and such stuff. Rather than do that, he specifically chose lively songs about victory and insisted that people dance. There was no stopping between songs with aptly chosen Bible verses or homilies – just one pounding song followed by another. At the end of it the tiredness had gone, the sense of battle weariness had lifted. It was an episode of using worship in a war I suppose.

Incidentally nightingales, like most birds have two voice boxes. They can harmonise with themselves!

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