Preparing for Worship - October 2, 2016
We're continuing in our series on the Psalms this Sunday by looking at Psalm 119:65-72 and talking about the theme of suffering. In life we cannot escape suffering but we also cannot become spiritually mature without suffering. In many instances putting our lives into God's hands means more suffering in the short term. But the good news is that we have a good God with good purposes behind all the suffering that we experience. Furthermore, in Jesus Christ we have a God that enters into suffering with us and for us. To view our full liturgy click here. Here are the songs that we'll sing together:
1. GRACE ALONE
Style: This a contemporary song done in an up-tempo, indie rock style.
Song Info: Here is another tune written by Dustin Kensrue and appearing on his 2013 The Water and the Blood. This is one of my favorite worship songs written in a long time. What I love most about it is its unapologetic ode to God's pure grace. This song focuses on biblical and reformed themes of salvation by grace alone - that God has invaded our lives with his salvation. He has transformed our hearts and made us want to respond to his grace. He has done everything in our salvation and he alone ought to receive the glory. This tune attempts to give him just that. This is a good song for a call to worship because it approaches the Father with a humble heart overwhelmed by grace - a good starting point for worship. It also functions well as a benedictorial song.
2. BE STILL MY SOUL
Style: We will sing this classic hymn in its traditional style. It is low-tempo, somber, and contemplative.
Song Info: The melody to this hymn was composed in 1900 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was written to be a Finnish patriotic song. But the melody is so good and has become so popular that is has been since used as the melody for six different Christian hymns and various other songs. The lyrics were originally written in German by Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel in 1752.
Altogether this is a stunning hymn. Its content is especially appropriate for those who are suffering. The great theme of this song is that though this Christian life (and all life on earth) is full of suffering, we have hope and comfort in Jesus Christ through his resurrection from the dead. The hymn calls us to be patient in tribulation and to rejoice in hope. Though we suffer now because of illness, tragedy, sin, persecution, and repentance we have the sure and certain hope of resurrection. This makes it so that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us when Jesus returns.
This is an appropriate time in worship to sing this song because it helps us move from praising the glory and grace of God to recognizing our own fallen condition.
3. SPEAK, O LORD
Style: This is a contemporary song done in a low-tempo and contemplative tone.
Song Info: This is another modern hymn written by Stuart Townend and the Gettys. Their mission in hymn-writing, it seems, is to write modern hymns that are musically excellent and maintain the integrity and theological depth of the famous hymns of the past. And they have been very successful in this endeavor. We sing this song at this point in worship because we are preparing our hearts to hear God's word in the sermon. This song focuses on God's word and the power of God's word to transform our hearts, bring us to worship and obedience, and build up his church.
4. IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL
Style: We will play this song in its traditional style. It is low-tempo and prayerful.
Song Info: The lyrics to this hymn were written by Horatio Spafford and the tune composed by Philip Bliss. It was first published in 1876. The story behind the hymn has since become famous. Spafford wrote this hymn aboard a ship crossing the Atlantic ocean while it passed over the place where his four daughters drowned only weeks earlier. Spafford faced immense suffering in his life - more than most will - and yet was able to compose the words of this hymn: "whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say: it is well with my soul."
5. NEARER MY GOD TO THEE
Style: This is a traditional hymn done in its original style. Lo-tempo and prayerful.
Song Info: This hymn comes to us from Sarah Flower Adams and the 19th century. It is based on the story of Jacob fleeing from Esau found in Genesis 28:11-19. Though God had promised that Jacob would be the recipient of Abraham's blessing it seemed that everything in Jacob's life conspired against him as he sought to attain it. Jacob deceived his father into giving him the blessing when Isaac had intended to give it to his brother Esau. After this deception Isaac died and Esau sought to kill his brother Jacob. So Jacob ran away to Padan-aram to save his life. As Jacob was exiting the land of promise God appeared to him in a dream and assured him that he would establish his covenant with Jacob and Jacob would return to the land. Jacob named the place "Bethel", which means house of God.
This hymn connects Jacob's story to ours. It recognizes that God meets with us in our most profound moments of pain and loss in order to draw us near to him and teach us more about who he is. The most profound place that we encounter God is the cross of Jesus Christ.
Some survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic reported that this hymn was played by the ship's string ensemble as the ship sank.
6. O LOVE THAT WILL NOT LET ME GO
Style: We will be singing a more contemporary version of this song arranged by Indelible Grace. It is up-tempo and joyful with a folk-rock feel.
Song Info: The lyrics to this hymn were written in the nineteenth century by Scottish minister and hymn writer George Matheson. Though Matheson wrote several hymns, this is the only one that still enjoys popularity today. Matheson wrote this hymn on the eve of his sister's wedding. Matheson had previously been engaged himself, but his engagement was ended because he was going blind. His bride-to-be decided that she could not live the rest of her life with a blind man and broke the engagement. After that time he was cared for by his sister. But he wrote this hymn at a time when his sister would be married and no longer able to be his primary care taker. Emotionally, Matheson looked to God himself as his care taker. He said that he wrote this hymn in the time frame of five minutes.
See you Sunday!