Preparing for Worship - May 21, 2017
Join us this Sunday as we continue in our series in Matthew which is currently focusing on the Sermon on the Mount. This Sunday we will take a second look at Matthew 5:21-26 and focus on this question - Is it always wrong to be angry? Jesus says in this passage "...everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment...". What did he mean? When is anger appropriate and when is it destructive? Come and hear God's word on this matter. Our full liturgy can be seen here. Here are the songs 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. I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER
Style: This hymn has been around in various forms for a long time. The tune itself is a popular Sacred Harp tune from 1844 - Beech Spring. It has a Celtic or Appalachian sound and is mellow and prayerful.
Song Info: This particular arrangement was produced recently by Daniel Justice Snoke and released on a Cardiphonia compilation. The lyrics are a stylized version of the Apostles' Creed. From early times the church has considered the Apostles' Creed to be a full yet succinct definition of the gospel. We don't normally think of it as a proclamation of the gospel because it contains much more than just the cross and resurrection.
But in the Heidelberg Catechism, a revered reformation document, Question 22 asks: "What then must a Christian believe?" Answer: "Everything God promises us in the gospel. That gospel is summarized for us in the articles of our Christian faith -- a creed beyond doubt, and confessed throughout the world." The Catechism goes on to cite and unpack the entirety of the Apostles' Creed.
3. GOOD SHEPHERD OF MY SOUL
Style: This is a contemporary hymn played in a celtic-folk style. It is mid-tempo and prayerful.
Song Info: This song comes to us from Stuart Townend, Keith and Kristin Getty, and Fionan de Barra. It is a prayer that Christ would dwell within us, transform our lives, and mold us into Christ-likeness. It especially reflects on the difficulty of this journey living in a fallen world. My favorite line is this:
I’ll walk this narrow road
With Christ before me,
Where thorns and thistles grow
And cords ensnare me.
Though doubted and denied,
He never leaves my side,
But lifts my head and calls me to follow.
"Thorns and thistles" is a reference to the fallen world in which we live. We walk with Christ on a narrow road in a land of thorns and thistles. The way of the Christian is difficult. But the good news is that we walk with Christ. Though we doubt him, deny him, and fail him countless times he is always with us, lifting us up and calling us anew to continue following him.
"for the righteous falls seven times and rises again..." (Proverbs 24:16)
"Seven times" indicates completion. Our failure and our sin is complete. It couldn't get any more sinful. Yet because of the presence of Christ with us we rise again and continue on the way. We cannot help but do so thanks to his grace.
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.
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!