Monday, November 7, 2011

where to begin

I enjoy reading Zac Hicks' blog often.  I don't always agree with him, but I appreciate that he is a contemporary church musician that understands the theology of worship.

Today, he reminds us that "worship songs should say far more about God’s love for us and far less about our love for God."

As I repeat so often, "response" is a key toward biblical worship, but it's the last step in corporate worship.  We must always start with what is true about God, for instance, God's love for us, before we can respond.  I would argue, however, that we must go back further beyond this point.  Something, of course, proceeds God's love for us.  His character is and has always been, apart from us.  We must begin with God's transcendence; his "otherness," and then recount His hand in salvation history and, further, into our own lives as individuals. 

Though I like to refrain from being cliche' with my hymn choices, "Holy, Holy, Holy" is one of the better and most accessible texts emphasizing God's otherness.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy!  Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity. 

In this great text, we are over and over drawn to acknowledge the transcendence, the "otherness" of God (Lord God Almighty, song shall rise, which wert and art and evermore shalt be, though darkness hide Thee, perfect in power, in love and purity...).

From this point, we move to God's immanence; his work in human history. Here is a fabulous text:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

In this great hymn, Wesley immediately recognizes that the all-powerful, transcendent God has made himself immanent, working in human history (Joy of heaven to earth come down). 

The last element of congregational worship is our response.  It's extremely important, but it cannot happen without a clear understanding of why we should worship the Living God in the first place.  Here is one of my favorite examples of response: 

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy blessèd will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy throne,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

In this text, the congregants are prompted to respond to the truth of God's transcendence and immanence.  The only proper response is one of complete surrender to the Almighty Creator and Savior.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout out and for the encouragement. Keep up the good blogging!