Preparing for Worship - March 18, 2018
"Blood and Bread". This is the title of Part II of our look at the Passover. This Sunday we find ourselves in Exodus 12:29-42 and take a look at the killing of the firstborn in Egypt and the origin of the eating of unleavened bread. What did these things mean for God's people then? What do they mean for God's people today? This is what we'll be turning our hearts and minds to this Sunday. Here are the songs we'll be singing together:
1. ALMIGHTY GOD
Style: This is a contemporary song that has an alt-country, Nashville style. It is mid-tempo.
Song Info: This tune was written by Sandra McCracken and released on her 2015 Psalms. The main theme of this song is the idea that all hearts are open before God and nothing is hidden from him. It is a general song of praise to our omniscient creator. It may reflect the following passage from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer known as The Collect for Purity:
ALMIGHTY God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
It also reflects biblical passages such as Proverbs 15:3 - "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." Also Proverbs 15:11 - "Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!"
It is always good to approach God in worship acknowledging that he knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our successes and failures, our abundance and our needs. We cannot hide from him and thankfully we need not hide from him.
2. I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER
Style: This hymn has been around in various forms for a long time. The tune itself is a popular Sacred Harp tune from 1844 - Beech Spring. It has a Celtic or Appalachian sound and is mellow and prayerful.
Song Info: This particular arrangement was produced recently by Daniel Justice Snoke and released on a Cardiphonia compilation. The lyrics are a stylized version of the Apostles' Creed. From early times the church has considered the Apostles' Creed to be a full yet succinct definition of the gospel. We don't normally think of it as a proclamation of the gospel because it contains much more than just the cross and resurrection.
But in the Heidelberg Catechism, a revered reformation document, Question 22 asks: "What then must a Christian believe?" Answer: "Everything God promises us in the gospel. That gospel is summarized for us in the articles of our Christian faith -- a creed beyond doubt, and confessed throughout the world." The Catechism goes on to cite and unpack the entirety of the Apostles' Creed.
3. HALLELUJAH! WHAT A SAVIOR (MAN OF SORROWS)
Style: We will play this song in its traditional style. It is low to mid-tempo but done in a major key, having lots of energy, and with a very triumphant feel. The style of this song reminds me of classic gospel music.
Song Info: This song was composed in the mid nineteenth century by Philip P. Bliss. Bliss was a music teacher, evangelist, and hymn writer from the Ohio and Pennsylvania areas. He was responsible for composing many famous hymns including the melody for It Is Well With My Soul. The lyrics to this particular song have had an abiding power in the Christian world since they were penned. The title for JI Packer and Mark Dever's recent book on the atonement - "In My Place Condemned He Stood" - was lifted right from the lines of this hymn.
The subject matter of this song focuses on the cross and the humility of Christ, our king. As the song reflects on the humility and servanthood of Christ to suffer for our sins it continually returns to the anthem: Hallelujah! What a savior! It's appropriate at this moment in worship because we are turning from praising God for his goodness to recognizing our own sinfulness and need for a great savior.
4. 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.
5. NEAR THE CROSS
Style: This is a traditional hymn that we will play in its traditional style. It is low-tempo and contemplative.
Song Info: This hymn was written by Fanny Crosby - a very prolific and famous hymn writer of the nineteenth century. Crosby is responsible for many important hymns and much of them center on the subject of the cross. The melody for this particular song was written by William Doane - a businessman from Cincinnati. The content is a prayer that Jesus would keep our hearts and minds near the cross. It's no accident that the cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith. Indeed, the cross is the central idea of the Christian faith. To understand what's happening at the cross is to understand, in the clearest way that we can, the heart of God. In the cross we see more clearly than anywhere else the character of the Father. We see his justice and his mercy at the same time. We see his faithfulness and his love. We see his humility and his victory. Jesus, keep us near the cross.
6. COME BEHOLD THE WONDROUS MYSTERY
Style: This is a contemporary song played in a pop/country/rock style.
Song info: This song was written by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell in 2013. It is an invitation to consider "the mystery of the gospel of Christ". My favorite line in the song is "See the price of our redemption/ See the Father's plan unfold/ bringing many sons to glory/ grace unmeasured, love untold!"
See you Sunday!