Preparing for Worship - Sunday January 17
Here are the songs we'll be using in worship this coming Sunday. Included with each song is a description of the style and also some information about the song itself. We will also be playing some "special music" this week during the Lord's Supper. See below for details.
1. God All Nature Sings Thy Glory
Style: This song is set to the tune of the familiar "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" and "Ode To Joy". We will play the traditional melody with a mid-tempo. The style is traditional and joyful.
Song Info: The melody to this song goes all the way back to Ludwig Van Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" found in his Symphony No. 9. It has been adapted multiple times for hymns and even secular music. The most famous adaptation is probably "Hymn to Joy" penned at the turn of the 20th century. The lyrics to this particular version are considered by many to be a significant advancement in terms of communicating biblical truth. They were written by David Clowney in 1960. David Clowney was the son of the great Edmund Clowney who served as a presbyterian minister, theologian, and president of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.
This song fits well as a call to worship because it focuses on themes of God's glory seen in creation: "God all nature sings thy glory and thy works proclaim thy might/ ordered vastness in the heavens, ordered course of day and night". You can tell that the hymn writer was presbyterian by the emphasis on "order" (little joke). The hymn then turns to man's dignity - not a subject often taken up in worship music. "Clearer still we see thy hand in man whom thou hast made for thee/ ruler of creation's glory, image of thy majesty." It is right to praise God for his works and for creating us in his image before we meditate upon our sinful condition.
2. Holy, Holy, Holy
Style: We will play the traditional version of this song with a "folk rock" sort of feel. It will be mid-tempo.
Song Info: This hymn is one of the most famous and popular hymns of all time. It was written by Reginald Heber in the late 18th century. Its main focus is on the Trinity. It was even written to be used on "Trinity Sunday" but it has become much more widely used and beloved. It's appropriate at this moment in the worship service because we are still meditating on the transcendence and glory of God but also beginning to recognize our own inadequacies. The hymn sings: "...though the eyes of sinful man thy glory may not see."
3. And Can It Be?
Style: We will play the traditional music for this song while including drums. It will be the familiar tune with a bit more energy.
Song Info: This hymn is likely one of the best loved of Charles Wesley's 6000 hymns that he wrote. The song was written in 1738 as a celebration of Wesley's conversion. The line: "I woke, the dungeon flamed with light/ my chains fell off, my heart was free/ I rose went forth and followed thee" are often quoted in sermons. This song fits well at this point in worship because we are acknowledging our need for conversion. Some of us need to be converted for the first time, some of us need a fresh experience of grace to stir up our obedience. We look to hear of God's grace in the sermon that follows.
4. Carried To the Table
Style: This song is a contemporary tune. It is somber, low-tempo, and contemplative.
Song Info: This is a much newer song written by Leeland Mooring and performed by the band Leeland. It first appeared on their album Sound of Melodies in 2006. The content of the song is based on the story of David and Mephibosheth found in 2 Samuel 9. Mephibosheth was Jonathan's son and king Saul's grandson. But because of a tragic accident during childhood Mephibosheth was lame in both feet. In the ancient world, when a new dynasty ascended the throne (as is just happening to David in 2 Sam 9) it was common for the new king to slaughter any living relatives of the former dynasty who might have some claim on the throne in order to secure his position.
However, because of David's deep love for Jonathan he decided that he would have kindness on his son Mephibosheth. He called him to the palace intending to give him a seat at his table and make him equal to his own sons. Mephibosheth was understandably terrified when he was called because he thought that David intended to kill him. But instead David showed him grace and he was "carried to the table" to sit next to the king all the days of his life.
This song connects this story to our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Though we, by all rights, should have been considered enemies of the king, king Jesus showed us great mercy by giving us who are crippled by sin a seat at the Father's table. This is such an appropriate song to sing before communion because we, too, are truly "carried to the table/ seated where (we) don't belong".
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.
Style: This is a low-tempo and yet very energetic song. It's done is a classic mo-town/gospel style.
Song Info: This tune is an adaptation of the hymn: "Heal Us Emmanuel Hear Our Prayer" which was written in the 18th century by William Cowper. Cowper was a poet and hymn writer but also suffered from depression and attempted suicide on more than one occasion. This song beseeches the Christ, God with us, to touch us and heal us where we most need healing. It draws on different narratives in the gospels in which Jesus healed broken people. The version you hear here was arranged by Kevin Twit of Indelible Grace. It appears on their 2015 release: "Look to Jesus".
This is a very appropriate song to play as we receive the Lord's Supper. In the Lord's Supper we come to the Lord himself not just to receive the elements, but to receive Christ by faith. Jesus is the ultimate medicine that heals our guilt, blindness, sinfulness, and shame.
See you Sunday!