Category Archives: Worship

Take Away Our Bent to Sinning

Intentional memorizing has always been difficult for me. But sometimes when I lie awake during the night I remember the words to hymns, quite often all of the words. Last night it was this one that came to mind. It must have been a favorite of my father because we frequently sang it in church. Like many hymns it is best when sung in its entirety.

The phrase I first remembered last night was “Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be; End of faith as its beginning; set our hearts at liberty.” Newer hymn books have substituted “Take away our love of sinning” for “take away our bent to sinning”. I don’t like it. It does not mean the same thing. “Bent” reminds me that I am by nature twisted away from purity and truth, and I need help getting straight before I understand sin at all. Important also, when I remember I lean toward sin I can be proactive and preventative. Not all sin I commit is directly caused by my “love of sinning”.

Below is the tune and text I remember.

True Worship

“…true worship is biblical worship, that is to say, it is a response to the biblical revelation…the reading and preaching of God’s word in public worship, far from being alien intrusions into it, are rather indispensible aspects of it. It is the word of God which evokes the worship of God.”

“The Living Church” by John Stott, IVP 2007, pp.35-36

In the Rooms

The church I regularly attend has recently adopted several changes, including a name change (formerly Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church, now Skidaway Community Church). We were told the church is still Presbyterian, but the hope is that the new name will attract more worshipers. I still am not sure what I should think about this.

We also are in the early stages of searching for a new minister, and like most everyone else, feeling the disruption caused by COVID, social distancing and abbreviated services.

We still include corporate confession and assurance of pardon every week (although sometimes the assurance is applied narrative rather than scripture), but we are no longer reciting the Apostle’s Creed, or another statement of faith. I think it is a mistake to omit it. We need to bear witness exactly to what we believe.

C. S. Lewis, who coined the term “mere Christianity” also warned against its misapplication and abuse:

I hope no reader will suppose that “mere” Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions–as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else.  It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms.  If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted.  But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals.  The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in.  (Mere Christianity, 1980).

Each Most Rare

This morning, on my usual walk I was struck by how different familiar vistas look on each viewing.  After the heavy rain last night everything looked so fresh and alive and I noticed the contrast between various clumps of grasses.  And I thought about the uniqueness of each created thing.  Awesome.

            A Short Ode

All things then stood before us
as they were,
Not in comparison,
But each most rare;
The ‘tree, of many, one,’
The lock of hair,
The weir in the morning sun,
The hill in the darkening air,
Each in its soleness, then and there,
Created one; that one, creation’s care.

Edmund Blunden, A Hong Kong House: Poems 1951-1961 (Collins 1962).

Thanks to Stephen Pentz.

Singing “The God of Abraham Praise”

The past 15 years or so I have been worshipping with a Presbyterian church.  During that time I’ve been introduced to some old hymns that I really like.  One of them we are singing this week, “The God of Abraham Praise.”  It sounds so Jewish to me, which makes sense because, according to the hymn book, the tune was adapted from a “Traditional Hebrew melody.”  And the subject is praising God, who was also the God of Abraham, and the Jewish people.

I love how hymns like this remind us of timeless truths about God and the Church.  Much of the phraseology comes straight from the Old or/and New Testaments.  They are based on scripture and truth and promises, not at all focused on ourselves, but rather on God.

Isn’t it a glorious song!

 

Worship: About God and For Us

Written by  “an amateur musician who spent decades in the Contemporary Worship movement before abandoning it completely to search for a life of sacramental worship”:

I have argued, via my guest articles and comments on Jonathan’s blog over the last few years, that worship is formative, not expressive. That worship is about God and for us. It is about God in that God and God alone is the subject and object of our worship. It is for us in that worship is intended to be formative, not expressive and is meant to transform us into the likeness and character of Jesus Christ.

The Contemporary Worship movement claims that worship is all about emotion and enlists passages such as the story of David’s dance to reinforce their faulty presuppositions about the goal and purpose of worship. I do not intend to diminish the role of emotion in the Christian life. God created us as rational, volitional, and emotional beings and all these components should help propel worship forward its intended telos. However, a worship philosophy that makes an emotional response the primary metric of successful worship is flawed. So long as emotion remains the goal and metric of worship, the church deprives itself of a God-given means of grace through which we are transformed, individually and corporately, into the Bride of Christ.

Read it all here.

Who Trusts in God, a Strong Abode

I found this in the hymn book from the first Presbyterian church I attended, First Presbyterian Church North Shore, Ipswich, Massachusetts.  It is so reassuring, and based on scripture.  I don’t remember ever singing it before.

Here are the lyrics from my hymn book (with a few pronoun changes from the recorded version):

Who trusts in God, a strong abode in heav’n and earth possesses;
Who looks in love to Christ above, no fear his heart oppresses.
In you alone, dear Lord, we own sweet hope and consolation:
Our shield from foes, our balm for woes, our great and sure salvation.
Though Satan’s wrath beset our path, and worldly scorn assail us,
While you are near we will not fear, your strength shall never fail us:
Your rod and staff shall keep us safe, and guide our steps forever;
Nor shades of death, nor hell beneath, our souls from you shall sever.
In all the strife of mortal life our feet shall stand securely:
Temptations’s hour shall lose its pow’r, for you shall guard us surely.
O God, renew, with heav’nly dew, our body, soul, and spirit,
Until we stand at your right hand, through Jesus’ saving merit.
I love the tune.  It is so singable.  And I would prefer to sing the older pronouns, but that is not important.

 

By Thy Grace Our Souls Are Fed

Bread of the world, in mercy broken!
Wine of the soul, in mercy shed!
By whom the words of life were spoken,
And in whose death our sins are dead!

Look on the heart by sorrow broken,
Look on the tears by sinners shed,
And be thy feast to us the token
That by thy grace our souls are fed!

 

   I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down,
Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting-place,
And He has made me glad.

Here are the other verses, not here included:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream.
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.

3. I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s Light.
Look unto Me; thy morn shall rise
And all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that Light of Life I’ll walk
Till traveling days are done.

 

 

Creed: A Core Set of Beliefs

From The Center for Baptist Renewal, one Southern Baptist Church’s explanation of why and how they incorporated creed statements in their worship:

The Apostles’ Creed is one of the most significant compilations of Christian beliefs in the history of the church. However, Southern Baptists have avoided it throughout our lifetime, citing the Bible as their sole creed. As Southern Baptists, we deeply appreciate the insistence on the unique authority the Bible has. Yet, the writers of the creed would not have argued with that point. We think that’s why they wrote it. Imaginatively, the writers of the creed said, “we need to make sure that Christians know, in short form, the most important things the Bible teaches since most of them may not be able to read the Bible themselves.” We can imagine that such a conversation then generated this and other creeds. Thus, it is categorically impossible to claim a high view of Scripture and ignore a statement intended to highlight its central themes. Since Baptists cling to political statements thought to emphasize biblical truth (“right to life,” etc.), it is confusing to hear talk about the various theological statements throughout time as if they undercut biblical authority. We don’t dichotomize the bible from what it teaches historically anymore than we do politically, and have implemented the creeds to emphasize the biblical nature of our faith at Redeemer Baptist Church. Here is why and how that happened.

WHY DID WE DO IT?

We did it to affirm certain truths while rejecting other cultural maxims weekly, because we weekly forget our faith at the most rudimentary levels (my emphasis). Everyone determines their own god/s? “We believe in God the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” There is no reasonable reason to believe Christian claims?  “On the third day he rose again.” Christianity is splintered? We believe in “the Holy catholic (universal) church.” The creed is a way of saying, “the Bible says . . .” each week with an orienting voice. As fathers, we tried to develop a voice with our kids by which all other voices were measured. We wanted them to evaluate cultural postulations (sold as “everybody believes” this type “truth”) by what they hear from us as parents. We wanted all other male voices in daughters’ ears measured against their own father’s voice. Similarly, due to the many competing voices and stories, both liberal and conservative, throughout our culture, we felt the need to set forth the core biblical elements by which RBC could measure all other stories or voices. Further,  creeds provided a core set of beliefs for our congregation so that, regardless of the distinctions of other Christians around us, we could cling to these core elements and celebrate the fact that we were one family in Jesus (emphasis added)….  more.

 

Alleluia!

My six member choir plans to sing this beautiful choral praise in worship this coming week.  Google’s definition of Alleluia:

Hallelujah is an Anglicization of Hebrew for “praise the Lord”, where hallel is the verb “to praise, and “Lord” represents the tetragrammaton name of God, whose initial syllable is something like “yah”. … Latin made that alleluia, and English got it from the Christian missionaries from Rome.

This is one song I really feel privileged to sing.