Preparing for Worship - January 15, 2017
This week we continue in our series in the early chapters of Matthew - Immanuel, God With Us. Our text is Matthew 2:19-23, the death of Herod. This scene follows what we looked at last week, Herod's slaughter of the innocents and Mary and Joseph's flight into Egypt. This week we see how no amount of earthly persecution can prevail against God's purposes. To view our full liturgy click here. Here are the songs that we'll sing together:
1. REJOICE (COME AND STAND BEFORE YOUR MAKER)
Style: This is a contemporary, up-tempo song that is perfect for a call to worship.
Song Info: This song was written as a collaborative effort between two of my favorite worship artists: Stuart Townend and Dustin Kensrue. It first appeared on Kensrue's 2013 album The Water and the Blood - in my opinion one of the greatest modern worship albums released in a long time. This song calls us to rejoice in the Lord, our maker. It leads us to sing and meditate on God's infinite perfections. It's appropriate here because we should come to God first with praise and adoration. Before we confess our sin, before we acknowledge our needs, before we make any requests we ought to first praise God and adore him for who he is.
2. COME THOU FOUNT OF EVERY BLESSING
Style: We will play the traditional version of this hymn. It is low-tempo and prayerful.
Song info: This hymn comes to us from Robert Robinson, a pastor in the eighteenth century. One comment of explanation will suffice for this well-known hymn. In the second verse the "Ebenezer stone" is mentioned. This is a reference to a stone raised by Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12. This stone was a monument setup to remind God's people that it is God that had helped them up until that point in their history. It was the Lord who brought them out of Egypt and cleared out the land of promise and established them in the land. And it was the Lord who would continue to be their help so long as they remained faithful to him. "Ebenezer" means rock of help. This song evokes that image in order to cause us to pause and meditate on our own lives and how the Lord has helped us up until now. It also admonishes us to continue to rely on him and look to him to help us reach our final destination - the New Heavens and New Earth.
3. GOOD SHEPHERD OF MY SOUL
Style: This is a contemporary hymn played in a celtic-folk style. It is mid-tempo and prayerful.
Song Info: This song comes to us from Stuart Townend, Keith and Kristin Getty, and Fionan de Barra. It is a prayer that Christ would dwell within us, transform our lives, and mold us into Christ-likeness. It especially reflects on the difficulty of this journey living in a fallen world. My favorite line is this:
I’ll walk this narrow road
With Christ before me,
Where thorns and thistles grow
And cords ensnare me.
Though doubted and denied,
He never leaves my side,
But lifts my head and calls me to follow.
"Thorns and thistles" is a reference to the fallen world in which we live. We walk with Christ on a narrow road in a land of thorns and thistles. The way of the Christian is difficult. But the good news is that we walk with Christ. Though we doubt him, deny him, and fail him countless times he is always with us, lifting us up and calling us anew to continue following him.
"for the righteous falls seven times and rises again..." (Proverbs 24:16)
"Seven times" indicates completion. Our failure and our sin is complete. It couldn't get any more sinful. Yet because of the presence of Christ with us we rise again and continue on the way. We cannot help but do so thanks to his grace.
4. AH, HOLY JESUS
Style: We will play the traditional version of this hymn. It is low-tempo and perfectly suited for post-sermon reflection and preparation for the Lord's Supper.
Song Info: Ah Holy Jesus is a German hymn from 1630 by Johann Hermann. The tune itself was composed by Johann Crüger but has been used by various other composers including JS Bach and Johannes Brahms. It has a beautiful and enduring melody and equally beautiful lyrics. The song is a meditation upon the cross. Why was innocent Jesus crucified? It was not because of his sin, but ours. "Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered. The slave hath sinned and the Son hath suffered". The song concludes with a confession that we can by no means repay Jesus. All that is left for us to do is adore him and offer our lives as sacrifices of thanksgiving to the king.
5. ALL MY DAYS (BEAUTIFUL SAVIOR)
Style: This is a contemporary hymn done in a CCM style. It is up-tempo and joyful.
Song Info: This is one of my favorite songs from hymn writer Stuart Townend. It's subject matter reflects back on our salvation, sings a song of gladness because of it, and looks toward the fulfillment of our salvation: a new heavens and a new earth. "Where countless worshippers will share one song, and cries of 'worthy' will honor the lamb." It is appropriate at this moment in worship because of its emphasis on glory that is to come. A great reminder for us as we conclude worship and go out into the world to live as disciples of Jesus.
See you Sunday!