Preparing for Worship - October 30, 2016
This week we continue in our series in the Psalms by looking at Psalm 119:113-128. These two stanzas touch on the theme of what it's like to live as God's people in hostile territory. To view our full liturgy click here. Here are the songs that we'll sing together:
1. REJOICE (COME AND STAND BEFORE YOUR MAKER)
Style: This is a contemporary, up-tempo song that is perfect for a call to worship.
Song Info: This song was written as a collaborative effort between two of my favorite worship artists: Stuart Townend and Dustin Kensrue. It first appeared on Kensrue's 2013 album The Water and the Blood - in my opinion one of the greatest modern worship albums released in a long time. This song calls us to rejoice in the Lord, our maker. It leads us to sing and meditate on God's infinite perfections. It's appropriate here because we should come to God first with praise and adoration. Before we confess our sin, before we acknowledge our needs, before we make any requests we ought to first praise God and adore him for who he is.
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. YOU ARE MY SHIELD
Style: This is a contemporary song done in the style of harmonious folk rock reminiscent of bands likeCrosby, Stills, Nash, Young and Fleet Foxes. It is mid-tempo and prayerful.
Song Info: This song was arranged and produced by Jody Killingsworth and Jake Mentzel in 2016. They are part of a group of pastors and musicians who work with Clearnote Churches. This song is part of a 10 song album released in 2016 that sets Psalms 1-10 to modern meter and music. They also take some liberties to add refrains to these songs and to rearrange lyrics in order to create rhyme (both of which are lacking from the Psalms).
The song itself is intended to be a faithful version of Psalm 3. Psalm singing has a tradition in the church that is as old as the psalms themselves - roughly 3500 years. Psalm 3 is a Psalm of David so it was written sometime around 1000BC. It is classified as a lament psalm - meaning that it is a cry for help to God that was originally written during a difficult situation in David's life - the psalm itself identifies this situation as Absalom's rebellion and David's flight from Jerusalem. This was a time of deep betrayal in David's life. During this time David raised his complaint to the Lord and recognized the precariousness of his very life. He asked that God would come to his defense by saving him and destroying his enemies - a prayer that was ultimately answered by the Lord.
Though we live in a time and place where we don't often have physical enemies like David did these psalms are still for us. One reason is because we do have enemies in the heavenly places who are seeking to destroy us. But another reason is that we have brothers and sisters in Christ around the world (and even around the block) who are being oppressed by a physical enemy. Psalms like this help us to identify with them.
4. ALAS! AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEED?
Style: We will be playing the traditional version of this hymn. It is lo-tempo and contemplative.
Song Info: There seem to be hundreds of version of this hymn out there. The lyrics are so powerful that it has been covered and re-arranged by several artists. Yet the traditional hymn was written by Isaac Watts (lyrics) and Hugh Wilson (music) in the 18th century. This tune fits well at this point in the service because it causes us to meditate on our sinful condition before the Lord. Here we move from rejoicing in the Lord and his goodness in creation to our sinful response to God. Though God has showered infinite grace upon us in making us in his image, we have repaid him by rebelling against his rule in our lives. Yet this song is also about God's surprising mercy in sending his own Son to come as man and die for our rebellion.
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!