Preparing for Worship - September 16, 2018

Join us this Sunday as we continue in our series in Hebrews. This Sunday we will look at Hebrews 9 and continue to learn what the Bible says about the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament - namely, the difference that Jesus makes. Here are the songs that we'll sing together:

1. ALL CREATURES OF OUR GOD AND KING

Style: We will play the traditional version of this song which is markedly different from the popular contemporary version. The time signature will be noticeably different and the music is more complex and beautiful. But the melody line remains essentially the same. It is mid-tempo, joyful, and Orchestral.

Song Info: The words to this hymn may be originally ascribed to Saint Francis of Assisi in 1225. They are contained in his poem A Canticle to the Sun which was inspired by Psalm 148. William Draper translated the words into English in the late nineteenth century. The music comes from a popular German hymn from 1623 composed by Friedrich Spee. All in all, this song has a very rich history. This is a great song for a call to worship because it is calling all creatures (created things) to enter into the presence of the creator to worship and give thanks to him. In the song Francis explores multiple characters in creation and calls them to praise and thank God. Since we will not sing all of the verses on Sunday I will include a seldom-sung verse that is still very powerful:

"Earth ever fertile, day by day
bring forth your blessings on our way;
alleluia, alleluia!
All flowers and fruits that is you grow,
let the his glory also show;
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! "

The Lord's Day is a wonderful day to stop from our normal activity to observe the continual activity of God in upholding his creation. This song causes us to remember the glorious world that God has made and give him thanks for making it and putting us in it.

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2. THE SANDS OF TIME ARE SINKING

Style: We will play this song in its traditional style. It is a low-tempo, prayerful, harmonious, nineteenth century hymn.

Song info: The lyrics to this hymn come to us from Scottish poet and minister's wife Ann Cousin (1824-1906). This song is based on her poem "Last Words" which seeks to lyrically convey some of the final writings of Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish minister and professor who served on the Westminster Assembly.

The song could be classified as a lament because it focuses on the reality of death and looks forward to the glories of heaven. Because of this it is often understood to be otherworldly. The refrain "Immanuel's land" is taken to be a reference to heaven above. But this is really a lament that looks forward to the return of Christ to renew our land - this land - and to make it into his New Heavens and New Earth. We ought to sing this lament as though we were like Abraham sojourning through the land of promise. We know the land that we pass through truly is Immanuel's land, though we have not yet come into our full inheritance. We look forward to the day when "the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ..." (Rev 11:15) because "glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land!"

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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.

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4. HE WILL HOLD ME FAST

Style: This is a contemporary song that could easily be mistaken for a traditional hymn. It is low-tempo and prayerful.

Song info: The lyrics to this popular song were originally written by Ada Habershon (1861-1918). Although the original hymn never enjoyed much popularity and has been completely overtaken by this contemporary version. It was revived by Matthew Merker, worship pastor at Capital Hill Baptist Church, in 2013 and since has been covered by many other worship artists.

The content of the song focuses on Christ's faithfulness to his people. Rather than singing that "we will cling to him!", we sing in this song "he will hold me fast!" The most memorable line says: "I could never keep my hold/ through life's fearful path/ for my love is often cold/ he must hold me fast". Singing this reminds us that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our salvation. If not for his faithfulness to us we would surely fall away. As Johannes Gerhardus Vos has put it, if Jesus died only to make it possible for people to be saved, then not a single person would be saved. Jesus did not only die for us but also is constantly at work through the Holy Spirit to give us the grace we need to respond to him.

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5. LO HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING

Style: We will play this in its traditional version. It is up tempo and joyful.

Song Info: This hymn was one of the many famous (and forgotten) hymns of Charles Wesley. Inspired by Revelation 1:7, John 20:24-31, Revelation 22:20, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, this hymn is about an eager anticipation of the return of Christ. Sometimes it is sung as an Advent hymn because of its focus on the coming of Christ. But it is appropriate for all seasons. The church should sing "O Come Quickly!" as she thinks about her long sojourn on earth in this age. This hymn helps us to not be too closely attached to this world and to eagerly anticipate the coming of the kingdom of God in glory.

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See you Sunday!