After finishing up a few projects, I’m happy to be digging again into Steve Guthrie’s wonderful book, Creator Spirit: The Holy Spirit and the Art of Becoming Human.
After the corruption of creation and community, the Spirit works to restore our humanity. Integral to this is the Spirit’s restoring us to one another, uniting us together in the new and renewed people of God.
Guthrie points to several texts in which Paul connects the church’s singing and the Spirit’s unifying work (Eph. 5:18-21; Col. 3:14-16; Rom. 15:5-11). He then notes the significance(s) of this connection:
When the church sings together, it announces the new community the Spirit has created in Christ. But the church’s singing not only announces this new community, it enacts it. When the church sings together, the creation of “one new humanity in place of the two” (Eph. 2:15) becomes an aural reality–something Paul’s readers could hear with their own ears. When they sang together in songs, hymns, and spiritual songs, they would have heard one voice composed of many voices. They would have heard a single melody arising from the mouths of men and women, Jews and Greeks, slave and free. If the church is the new humanity, there here is its voice (p. 80).
For Paul, music is a way of being the body that is the church, while also (literally) giving voice to this new community. In song we are able to not just imagine but hear this restored humanity. “Songs, hymns, and spiritual songs,” in other words, are both a way that people are incorporated into a community and, at the same time, an embodiment of that community (p. 81).