Preparing for Worship - February 12, 2017
Join us this Sunday as we return to our normal service hours (including GrACE Gathering and Faith Kids Sunday School classes). We will be continuing on in our series in Matthew - Immanuel, God with Us - by looking at Matthew 4:12-17. This text begins the extended section in Matthew on Jesus' Galilean ministry. Jesus' preaching is summed up here as "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." What does this mean? Come and see.
Our full liturgy can be seen here. Here are the songs we'll sing together:
1. PRAISE TO THE LORD THE ALMIGHTY
Style: We will be playing a modern take on the traditional version of this song. The melody will be the same but the chords will be simpler. We will play this mid-tempo.
Song Info: The melody of this hymn and original German lyrics date back to 1680 and is attributed to Joachim Neander. Catherine Winkworth translated it into English in 1863. It paraphrases both Psalm 103 and 150. This hymn usually falls under the category of "Praise and Thanksgiving" so it is an ideal song for a call to worship. This song focuses on God's role as creator and sustainer. As we sing it we call ourselves to recognize the work that God has done and is constantly doing to uphold our lives and care for us.
2. Although we are weeping (Psalm 126)
Style: This is a contemporary tune done in an ambient, folk style. It is low-tempo and prayerful.
Song info: This tune was produced by Sojourn Music and released on their 2014 album: New Again. It is heavily based on Psalm 126. Psalm 126 is a Song of Ascents, which means that it was used in Israel by pilgrims who were journeying to Jerusalem during feast times. This particular Psalm was written after the exile. It talks about the Lord restoring the fortunes of Zion - a reference to their return from exile. The Psalmist rejoices in this miracle and then turns to a plea for restoration. The land was desolate after 70 years of exile and in need of restoration of all kinds. This prayer asks God to establish the work of their hands as they go out to sow their seed and try to rebuild their lives.
This song is good for us to sing today because we too are called to busy ourselves with building the kingdom of God. The exiles of that time were called by God to return to the land and rebuild, awaiting God's promise to visit them and completely restore the kingdom. We're in a very similar spot. As we wait for Jesus' return we are called to sow seeds of the kingdom and seek to establish God's kingdom in every place. So this prayer is for the church today. Restore us, O Lord.
3. 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.
4. NEAR THE CROSS
Style: This is a traditional hymn that we will play in its traditional style. It is low-tempo and contemplative.
Song Info: This hymn was written by Fanny Crosby - a very prolific and famous hymn writer of the nineteenth century. Crosby is responsible for many important hymns and much of them center on the subject of the cross. The melody for this particular song was written by William Doane - a businessman from Cincinnati. The content is a prayer that Jesus would keep our hearts and minds near the cross. It's no accident that the cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith. Indeed, the cross is the central idea of the Christian faith. To understand what's happening at the cross is to understand, in the clearest way that we can, the heart of God. In the cross we see more clearly than anywhere else the character of the Father. We see his justice and his mercy at the same time. We see his faithfulness and his love. We see his humility and his victory. Jesus, keep us near the cross.
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.
See you Sunday!