Preparing for Worship - July 22, 2018
Join us this Sunday as we continue in our series in Hebrews. This week we look at the remainder of Hebrews 2 and the glorious truths of the humanity of Christ. Here are the songs that we'll sing together:
1. HOW GREAT THOU ART
Style: We will be blending traditional and contemporary elements in this song. The melody and chords will be the familiar, traditional arrangement though we will play this song a bit more up-tempo with an alt-country feel.
Song Info: This well known hymn has a long translation history. It is based on a poem written in Swedish, then translated into German, then into Russian, then into English from the Russian. Stuart K Hine is responsible for the English version that we all know, which originated in 1949. The melody is a traditional Swedish melody. This hymn is one of the most popular of all time, second only to Amazing Grace.
This hymn makes an excellent call to worship because it is all about approaching God with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving. We are taught in Scripture to come into his presence of God with praise and thanksgiving before we come with requests or even confession of sin.
2. 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.
3. IN CHRIST ALONE
Style: This is a contemporary song that is oft mistaken for a classic hymn. It is mid-tempo and done in the style of a traditional hymn.
Song Info: This is one of many songs that we play written by Stuart Townend. It was produced in 2001 but already is enjoying endurance as a modern hymn and will likely enjoy popularity in the church for generations to come. The content of the song focuses on salvation through Christ alone. It touches on themes familiar to classic hymns such as On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand. This is an appropriate moment in worship to sing this song together because we are beginning to incline our hearts to hear the word of God in hopes of hearing about the grace of God in the gospel. Hearing the gospel strengthens us in our sinful state to overcome sin here and now.
4. BEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD ABOVE
Style: We will be playing the most known, contemporary version of this hymn. It is lo to mid-tempo and contemplative, but also joyful and powerful.
Song Info: The lyrics to this hymn were penned by Charity Lee Bancroft in the 1860's. She was the daughter of an Irish minister and wrote a large collection of hymns published in her hymnbook Behind the Veil. This is by far her most famous hymn. It was set to the tune of a number of different other songs, often taking on a more somber note. It wasn't until 1997 when Vikki Cook of Sovereign Grace Ministries wrote the tune that we are all familiar with today. Her melody interpreted the lyrics in a much more joyful light and the song took on a flavor of hope and joy. After this, the hymn experienced a revival within evangelical churches.
The hymn was originally named: "The Advocate". It's a perfect title. This hymn is about Jesus our advocate and our high priest stepping in to intercede for us in order to offer the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This is an appropriate moment in the worship service to sing this song because we've just heard the word of God in the sermon. In the sermon we've heard about everything we've already sung - God's glory, our sin, our need for a savior. But we've also heard about Christ's work on the cross as our savior. So now we gratefully sing of his work: "Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, a great High Priest whose name is love, who ever lives and pleads for me".
5. ROCK OF AGES
Style: We are playing a newer version of this hymn arranged by Dustin Kensrue. It is up-tempo and celebratory with an "indie rock" feel.
Song Info: The original hymn was written in 1763 by Augustus Toplady. Legend has it that one fateful evening Toplady was caught in the wilderness in the midst of a dangerous storm. He took shelter in the cleft of a large rock and this became the inspiration for the hymn: "Rock of ages cleft for me/ let me hide myself in thee." The hymn picks up on the biblical image of Jesus Christ being a "rock of refuge" for his people. The storm of God's wrath will sweep over the earth in order to remove sin. Sinners may take refuge in Jesus Christ to survive this storm.
This hymn was redone by Dustin Kensrue in 2013 and appeared on his album The Water and the Blood. It is appropriate at this moment in worship because of it's celebratory note. In the sermon we've heard about Jesus' work as rescuer and now we are able to enjoy our salvation and celebrate the refuge that he offers to us.
See you Sunday!