Preparing for Worship - August 21, 2016
1. HOW GREAT THOU ART
Style: We will be blending traditional and contemporary elements in this song. The melody and chords will be the familiar, traditional arrangement though we will play this song a bit more up-tempo with an alt-country feel.
Song Info: This well known hymn has a long translation history. It is based on a poem written in Swedish, then translated into German, then into Russian, then into English from the Russian. Stuart K Hine is responsible for the English version that we all know, which originated in 1949. The melody is a traditional Swedish melody. This hymn is one of the most popular of all time, second only to Amazing Grace.
This hymn makes an excellent call to worship because it is all about approaching God with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving. We are taught in Scripture to come into his presence of God with praise and thanksgiving before we come with requests or even confession of sin.
2. 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.
3. AN ALTAR OF REMEMBRANCE
Style: This is a contemporary hymn played in a classic British Rock style. It is reminiscent of a Paul McCartney song. It's mid-tempo.
Song info: This is a recent release from Stuart Townend, appearing on his 2014 Paths of Grace - an album based on themes found in the prophet Isaiah. An Altar of Remembrance picks up on the idea of such altars that were built by God's people of old as a way of remembering special encounters with God, promises, and mighty acts of God in their lives and the history of their nation (Genesis 12:8, Genesis 28:18, Joshua 4:9). These altars were meant to remind people of the stories of God's faithfulness. In this song we construct an altar of remembrance for everything that God has brought us through and all the good he has done in our lives. Beyond this, we recognize that our very lives are being built into altars of remembrance for future generations. Lord willing, our children and other future generations will be able to look at our lives and see "altars of remembrance" - pillars declaring stories of God's faithfulness to his people.
4. When I Survey The Wondrous Cross
Style: We will play the traditional version of this hymn. It is low-tempo, prayerful, and joyful.
Song Info: This hymn was first published by Isaac Watts in 1707. This hymn is loosely based on Galatians 6:14 - "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." But it is also an historically significant English hymn because it was one of the first to depart from only paraphrasing Scripture to writing original verse. This has grown to become a beloved hymn that's been reimagined many times since its first appearance.
This hymn is a meditation on the cross and so is an appropriate song to help us respond to the sermon and prepare our hearts for the Lord's Supper. The second stanza, in particular, is a worthy meditation:
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
Both this stanza and Galatians 6:14 say that we should boast in Christ alone. This means that when we talk about ourselves we should not boast in our own accomplishments, power, or character. We should boast about what God has done for us in Christ. Such boasting actually helps those who hear it because the same Jesus that has helped us is also available to them.
5. 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.
See you Sunday!