My brother, William, like me, also belongs to a Presbyterian church. Just as Seventh Day Baptist (the denomination in which we were raised) worship service structure differs among congregations, so does that in Presbyterian congregations. William’s church observes communion every week. I can not think of a better way to worship. Observing Communion reminds us why we are Christian. It takes away our pride. It unites us to each other in Christ.
A recent bulletin:
I found a new (to me) hymn this morning in Hymns of Grace. Titled “I Plead For Grace,” it is an adaptation of Psalm 51 by Joseph Tyrpak, and is paired with a familiar hymn tune, Morecambe. If you would like to sing it Mr. Fleischer’s piano rendition is a nice accompaniment.
I Plead For Grace
I plead for grace,O God of steadfast love;
By Your great mercy, all my sin remove.
Deeply ashamed for spurning You alone,
I stand condemned before your holy throne.
Though you want truth and purity within,
I am unclean, conceived with inborn sin.
Purge me with blood, and wash me white as snow.
Hide my transgressions; heal my broken soul.
Create in me a spotless heart, I pray.
Take not Your Spirit! Cast me not away!
Restore to me salvation’s joy anew,
Then I will teach the lost to turn to You.
Save me, O God with blood my hands are stained!
Open my lips to praise Your righteous name.
Though You reject a thoughtless sacrifice,
My broken, contrite heart You’ll not despise.
Lord, in Your goodness, build up Zion’s walls.
Let not my sin tear down Your glorious cause.
May You delight in ev’ry sacrifice,
Offered by sinners You have purified.
God can be just and sinners justify
For Jesus bled God’s wrath to satisfy.
My sins the spikes that nailed Christ to the tree—
God’s love and justice there for all to see.
In 1674 Jodocus Van Lodenstein, a Dutch Reformed Pietist, first used the term “always reforming” in reference to the church. He said “The church is reformed and always (in need of) being reformed according to the Word of God.” Because of our wily and corrupt human nature it is still true today. Those first reformers were concerned to return to what the Church was meant to be according to scripture, correcting false and corrupt doctrine and traditions. We too need to guard against the siren call to adapt to the culture or indulge personal preferences. We must remember “Sola Scriptura.”
In that spirit Jonathan Aigner suggests 95 more theses for the modern church door. A few of them:
- How to do worship is not fundamentally a question of preference, but meaning.
- Theology, not taste, should determine how we worship.
- Worship isn’t about declaring our attraction and affection for God, but declaring the character of God, and God’s creative and redemptive acts in human history.
- Being a Christian should scare the hell out of us. If it doesn’t, we aren’t doing it right. Worship brings us together in our vulnerability.
- The world around us is ugly, and mimicking the ugliness to make church relevant ends up making the church sad and irrelevant.
- The church’s relevance is found in its divine Alternative to the ugliness of a fallen cosmos.
I had to read this next one a couple of times, but I agree with him. My reading some of the Psalms in which the writer declares his innocence and righteousness come to mind:
- Speaking the truth of the gospel will sometimes be a lie. Liturgy calls us to speak, sing, read, and pray words that we don’t believe. The discipline of choosing to speak the Truth over what is true in our lives at any given point will unquestionably make the truth we live closer to the Truth we speak.
Of course I agree with his comments on entertainment style music and singing in church worship. For instance:
- Music in worship isn’t supposed to be a vehicle for emotional manipulation or sensory gratification.
- Music itself carries expressive potential, and it can support theological meaning well or poorly.
- Music in worship should always serve the liturgy, instead of being either the main attraction or the “warm-up” act.
- Singing in worship is a sacred discipline.
- Through word and sacrament, worship should mold and shape the community of faith into the likeness of its Savior.
One of many hymns written by Augustus Toplady (1740-1778).
O how amiable are thy dwellings: thou Lord of hosts!
My soul hath a desire and longing to enter into the courts of the Lord:
My heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house,
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young:
even thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house:
They will be alway praising thee.
The glorious Majesty of the Lord our God be upon us:
prosper thou the work of our hands upon us.
O prosper thou our handy-work,
O prosper thou our handy-work.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Written by R. Vaughan Williams in 1940, text taken from Psalms 84 and 90.
This is one of the pieces of music my choir has been rehearsing. What we lack in numbers we make up for in heart.
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
Now to his temple draw near,
Join me in glad adoration.
Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen
How thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what he ordaineth?
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee!
Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
What the Almighty will do,
If with his love he befriend thee!
Praise thou the Lord, who with marvelous wisdom hath made thee,
Decked thee with health, and with loving hand guided and stayed thee.
How oft in grief
Hath not he brought thee relief,
Spreading his wings to o’ershade thee!
Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the Amen
Sound from his people again;
Gladly for aye we adore him.