Preparing for Worship - April 2, 2017
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Mt 5:17). These famous words of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount have been the subject of much debate and confusion. What did Jesus mean here? What role does the Old Testament Law play in the lives of Christians? Does God really want us to be perfect? Come explore these questions with us this Sunday as we continue in our series in Matthew. To view our full liturgy click here. 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;
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.
2. 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.
3. A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD
Style: We will play the traditional version of this song. It is low to mid-tempo though the melody and content of the song are very triumphal and full of energy.
Song Info: This famous hymn dates back to the sixteenth century and was written and composed by the German reformer Martin Luther. Luther wrote many hymns, but this is by far his most successful. In the nineteenth century there was some controversy as to whether or not Luther wrote the music, but recent scholarship on the issue suggests that he indeed did.
This hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 46 and, in typical Luther fashion, very much focuses on spiritual warfare. The song is about the trials that we face in choosing to follow Christ - both sorrow in this age and also especial hardship that comes from the assaults of Satan. It is also about the glorious victory that we already have in Christ. This was something of a life-theme for Luther, who himself face many trials and was chiefly responsible for the reformation in Germany. This is one of my favorite hymns of all time.
4. WE WILL FEAST IN THE HOUSE OF ZION
Style: This is a contemporary, mid-tempo song that comes out of Nashville. It is prayerful and has a folk-rock flavor.
Song info: Appearing on her 2015 release Psalms, this song is a favored tune from Sandra McCracken. Since its publication is has enjoyed such honor as being The Gospel Coalition's official anthem for their 2015 annual conference. The entire album, including this song, was wrought out of a season of grief for McCracken as she struggled through the dissolution of her marriage due to infidelity. Many of the songs on Psalms are lament songs - songs expressing grief and pain to God. This is appropriate because most of the Psalms are Psalms of lament. Songs like this teach us how to direct our grief, anger, and sorrow toward God who is our healer.
This song is not based on any one Psalm but draws on themes from many of the "songs of Zion" that are found in the Psalter such as Psalms 46, 48, 76, 84, 87, and 122. This song also draws on themes found in Psalms of confidence such as Psalms 115, 125, and 129.
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!