met by love

We can run straight into your arms, unafraid
‘Cause every time we meet you, we’re met by love
We can our hands to heaven, full of faith
‘Cause every time we worship, we see your face

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Waiting

Psalm 130:5-6 ESV

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6 NET

I rely on the Lord,
I rely on him with my whole being;
I wait for his assuring word.
 I yearn for the Lord,
more than watchmen do for the morning,
yes, more than watchmen do for the morning.

This morning I was spending time reading this Psalm in a couple different translations.  I’ve thought a lot about waiting over the past year.  What does it mean to wait for the Lord?  In short, the Hebrew verb for wait also can be translated “to look” or “expect”…. also the word “linger.”

To linger in expectation of the Lord.  Waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing.  Waiting means anticipating.  Looking.  Lingering.  There is an active sense to this word that sometimes seems so passive at first glance.

I love the NET, “I wait for his assuring word.”  Sometimes that’s all we need, right?  Just his assuring word.  His gentle guidance and leading.

“More than watchmen waiting for morning.”  Cities at the time the Psalmist writes this psalm were fortified by walls in order to keep those inside the city safe from outside forces.  Watchmen were responsible for watching through the night to ensure the safety of those residing within the city walls.  I could be reading into this, but I’m sure there was a sense of relief once the morning came, and the shift of the night watchmen came to an end.  There is something comforting about daylight, and having the advantage of seeing in daylight possible danger coming from a distance to a city.

Yet the psalmist longs for the Lord more than even these watchmen on duty at night longed for the first signs of daylight on the horizon.

There was an intense expectation for the Lord to move, act and deliver on his word.  The psalmist is sure of God’s action, yet without promise of the Lord’s timing in his waiting.

We all wait at different times and in different ways as we go through life.  Sometimes, we just wade through dry, desert seasons and expectantly wait for God’s presence and guiding word to come to us.  Other times, we wait through intense storms and difficulty.

Find encouragement today.  As you linger in expectation.  Waiting involves action to look, and expect his presence to show up.  So don’t give up hope.

Keep waiting.
Keep watching.
Keep lingering.

I Breathe You In

The presence of the living God,
Satisfies the depths of my heart
All of me changed when you came,
Iʼm made free by Your glory and grace

I breathe You in God, cause You are thick all around me 
I breathe You in God, cause You are thick all around me

The brightness of Your loves pure light,
Pierces through the darkest of nights
Everything is possible now,
For God is here and God is good

You are good God, 
For You are good to me You are Good God, 
For You are good to me

When I donʼt understand Iʼll choose You
When I donʼt understand I will choose You God
When I donʼt understand I will choose to Love You God

 

Worship and Hymns: Worship of Hymns?

Some of the oldest hymns we sing today are maybe 200 years old.  It has been nearly 2,000 years since Christ walked this earth.  The rich “heritage” and “tradition” many hold near and dear to their hearts when it comes to music, probably isn’t really “traditional” at all…

I feel like I could blast out a blog going so many different directions right now…

[HYMNS] an introduction.

Music has always been a staple in the Christian faith, over both the Old and New Testament, we see many examples of songs that were written; songs written in battle, defeat, victory, quiet moments, joyous events, and spontaneous songs of praise as well.  I’d like to speak about the text of hymns first, and then talk about musicianship, and writing hymns secondly.  I will try my best to refrain from making personal comments and observations until the conclusion. 

Generally, in the function of music in the church, the text is perceived as the most important piece of worship, and rightfully so.  But, let us not forget the importance of musicianship, and playing skillfully, as the Psalmist speaks about.  And as recorded in 1 Chronicles 15:22, “Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, was to direct the music, for he understood it” (emphasis mine).  The importance of knowing music is vital, because music is a powerful emotional tool to bring humanity to Christ.  There is also another topic I would like to touch on, and that is the tension between the old and the new.  Christianity has always held tightly (sometimes too tightly) to the traditions passed down by our forefathers, however, the Psalmist speaks about singing a “new song” to the Lord (Psalm 96:1, Psalm 33:3…), and the prophet Isaiah also speaks about God doing a new thing, and to forget the former ways (Isaiah 42-43).  Living in the tension of tradition, and the new and what is to come is part of the dichotomy of knowing Christ, and walking with him, and if you will (musical pun intended), the dissonance of harmonies being played all at once, making it into something beautiful.

Forgive my scattered thoughts, but this is turning into bit more of an academic research paper, than just a blog post.

Over countless years, the Christian Church has seen many, many beautiful hymns [songs] written, speaking of the character and life of Christ, articulating theology in a very real and artistic way, and speaking about the life of the Christian.  There are many wonderful hymns/songs out there, but there are also many terrible hymns as well.  Don’t get me started on this…. We digress.  Anyway, the purpose of music in worship is an agent for connecting the human, to the divine.  This spans across religions.  There is something absolutely beyond this world that is the very essence of what music is.  The human and Divine meeting together as one and creating something beautiful, but also more mysterious than we could ever understand with our minds as humans. 

[HYMNS] text.

First, the text of a hymn can be approached in many different ways, but one common “formula”, if you will, that many hymn writers use is a progression of earth to heaven, in various different ways.  Just a few examples of this are: Amazing Grace, Abide with Me, It is Well With My Soul, How Great Thou Art (this is in fact actually a modern day hymn), among many, many others. 

For this particular examination of music, there will not be as much focus on how hymn text was written, but I do want to highlight that when the Liturgy was established and standardized by Charlemagne (more on him in the coming section), it also set a standardized text for Mass sung in churches.  In these days, circa 500 AD, the text remained the same each Sunday, and as time progressed, different composers would simply set this same text to different music and arrangement. 

This was the structure of the Mass, the liturgy sung and spoken by the people:

The same overtones of the Mass are still a large part of what happens from week to week (in some form or fashion) in our Evangelical churches even today.  Kyrie was the only Greek element to the Roman mass, and the words “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy“, was the translations of what was sung.  Gloria, the story of Christ’s birth, and the songs the angels sang to announce Christ’s birth.  Sanctus, meaning Holy, resonating in parallel with Isaiah 6, Agnus Dei, worthy is the Lamb who was slain, and so forth.  (Some of this I’m spouting from memory, other pieces from this book.  Read more on good old wikipedia).  As you can see, many of the songs we sing in our churches today are singing these exact same words, in different and new ways.  Not much has changed over time, and our traditions are still traditions, but in a new way.

[HYMNS] early church history. music.

Next, I will attempt to highlight in broad terms about the musical side of how hymns were written, and are written.  In the early days of the church, the church was the only source for well written and well performed music.  The church set the tempo for what expectations were when it came to music, and all this music, was worship.  In the Medieval Era, circa 400 AD, there was a significant draw away from secular music all together.  Monasticism communities were a way people could withdraw from the societal pressures of living in the world, and Christians could live distinct lives devoted completely to serving God, which also had a huge impact on music in the church.  This music was “Gregorian chant”, or also called “plainchant”, and vocal music was generally all monophonic (sung in the same tone and one melody), and slightly polyphonic also (different melodies sung together at the same time). 

Other historic events also lead to more development in music within the church, including the rule Charlemagne, where Christianity was made the official religion in the Roman Empire, and he also standardized many forms of worship, and lead to great musical development.  From his rule, he standardized a unified liturgy, along with music, as discussed earlier.

Another vital piece of the history of church music is to also understand that in these days, within the first 800-1,300 years of Church History, music was performance based, there was no participation required of the listener, only to simply listen and be moved by the music.  Music was left up to the professional, trained musician (this was not the case in the Old and New Testament, only what we see in this particular era).

As musical styles unfolded in the 1,000-1,700 AD range, so did the development of more secular music, and a departure from music only being performed within the church; but several factors influenced what emerged out of church music from this time frame.  First being the birth and events of Martin Luther’s life, the father of the Reformation.  Luther, as many may not realize, was a theologian, but also a hymn writer as well.  Part of his view on the separation from the Catholic Church was that worship should be something that was participatory, as he composed many congregational hymns.  His “preposterous” view that the mass be changed from Latin, to German was an outrageous suggestion, but at the time most people would attend church and not hear a word of the actual language they spoke.  Congregational songs, where the attender in church could engage in, was a huge breakthrough, and even now, as this is the basis for what church music and worship is today. 

Luther said, quoting Augustine, “For music is a gift…of God, not a gift of men [sic]… Therefore accustom yourself to see in music your Creator and to praise him through it”.  Luther also was a proponent for secular music being an avenue for worshipping God, and his famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, used the same tune as a secular song, and was used as a congregational hymn. 

Much more could be said of the road Martin Luther paved, but that is an entirely different blog/book. 

I’d like to also mention and briefly highlight Johann Sebastian Bach, as most everyone, secular or Christian, would agree made huge strides in both the vocal and classical music genres, and was a composer, choirmaster, and Church musician his entire life.  Almost all the songs he ever composed were songs of worship, for the glory of God.  It is quite interesting to consider, since his legacy is regarded as one of the most influential musicians and composers who ever lived.

[HYMNS] then and now.
(this is the part all of you who skipped the long history might want to read)

Tradition is what makes humans, human.  We cannot deny this fact.  Tradition makes our churches what they are today, however, if we as Christians now, in the twenty-first century are simply relying on our own “evangelical” or “gospel” traditions, we are missing the boat.  It’s already sailed, long ago.  Let’s admit it: music is something that touches our hearts, so if we are truly honest, we want to hear sometimes the music and songs that were meaningful to us as we went through a difficult time, or songs that were significant to bringing us to Christ, but let us not confuse this with being “better” or more spiritual.  This is called personal preference.

Let us educate ourselves.  If people at Church ABC are continually requesting “hymns”, but what they really want are the Gospel songs written in the 50’s by the Gather’s, then let us just say it like we mean it: we want what makes us feel good.  We cannot be Christians that continually live in the past and the “good old days”, because, as mentioned in the introduction, God is continually working , and he is doing new things even today (Isaiah 42-43).  The church is called to engage in a conversation with the culture we live in, but the purpose of the church is not to be “hip” and “cool”.  The church is called to acknowledge tradition (and by “tradition” I mean TRUE tradition– such as the early church as seen in Acts), not just the “tradition” that we were raised on, whenever we happened to be born.  God has put us on this earth, now, “for such a time as this”, and we can choose to acknowledge this, or simply live on our own planet, and not engage with what is going on.

My main point is this: our expression of our faith can never be divorced from our culture.  Don’t believe me?  Research the New Testament, in particular, and you will see that the language used, phrasing and wording, things Paul addresses in his letters, etc., were all things that had to do with the culture of THAT day.  So we, as students of the scriptures, can do our very best to examine this, and prayerfully seek the Spirit to know how those truths translate to us today. 

Don’t read me wrong, we are not going to be singing Justin Bieber in church, or sacrifice the truths that are TRUTHS, but we cannot continue to live in the dark.  We cannot simply request all our favorite songs from the 50’s because that’s the ONLY way we can connect with God, God is beyond time.  God is beyond musical style.  Wrap your brain around that!

As I mentioned in the introduction, we are called to simply connect the human with the Divine, through music and worship.  This can be done by singing scripture, theological truths, telling the story of Christ, and speaking to our own humanity.  We can communicate this through painting a musical picture, simply through an instrumental piece.  But let us not miss the simple fact of this: it is all for the glory of God.  It is not for us. 

Do you hear what I’m saying?  It is not about US.  It is not about the songs WE want.  It is not about how the songs make US feel. 

It is all about HIM. 

God’s majesty.  His beauty.  His reign in our hearts and lives. 

May we never miss this, because if we do, then we are simply attending church to worship ourselves.

—–

Sources cited:
“A History of Music in Western Culture”
“Jubilate 2: Church Music in Worship and Renewal”

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, commemorates the Last Supper Christ shared with his disciples.  “Maundy” originates from John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”.  More information available here. And here.

Jesus Prays for All Believers.  John 17:20-26:   “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Galatians 6:14: “We should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation,
our life and our resurrection; through Him we are saved and made free.”

I will not forget the cross the pain that You endured for us
Where You carried brokenness and shame
Never to forget the day Your love broke through to make a way
For hope to rise within my heart again

Overwhelming sacrifice You freely paid the highest price
Suffering You traded blood for me
My heart will sing the deepest praise my lips rejoice, my hands will raise
For the death that brought me into life

All for love my Jesus, You gave all for love
I am standing in the wonder of Your great love

What would I have done if it wasn’t for Your love?
The love that tore the veil inside my heart
What would I have become if it wasn’t for Your blood?
The blood You gave for all on the cross

Holy Week

      For the next week, I will (hopefully) be daily posting scripture readings, and book or quote excerpts leading up to Easter, on Sunday morning.  This time of year is one that resonates deeply in my heart, but part of the journey to Easter morning, with the experience of joy celebrating the risen Christ, is walking through Holy Week, which can often be shadowed by darkness.  Jesus Christ endured the cross, and went to the depths of Hell, the rose again in order to save us.

      We cannot fully worship the risen Savior until we understand the depth of our humanity and sin.  I look forward to the joy of Sunday morning, and worshipping in freedom.  I hope these next few days will bring light to your eyes, and turn hearts to Christ, and understanding more his immense love for us.

—–

Ephesians 2:13-16. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

—–

From A Letter of Consolation, by Henri J.M. Nouwen: “During this Holy Week we are confronted with death more than during any other season of the liturgical year. We are called to mediate not just on death in general or on our own death in particular, but on the death of Jesus Christ who is God and Man. We are challenged to look at Him dying on a cross and to find there the meaning of our own life and death. What strikes me most in all that is read and said during these days is that Jesus of Nazareth did not die for himself, but for us, and that in following Him we too are called to make our death a death for others.

What makes you and me Christians is not only our belief that He who was without sin died for our sake on the cross and thus opened for us the way to His heavenly Father, but also that through His death our death is transformed from a totally absurd end of all that gives life its meaning into an event that liberates us and those whom we love.

—–

From In Search of the Beyond by Carlo Coretto: “Jesus became a sacrament  for me, the cause of my salvation, he brought my time in hell to an end, and put a stop to my inner disintegration.  He washed me patiently in the waters of baptism, he filled me with the exhilarating joy of the Holy Spirit in confirmation, he nourished me with the bread of his word.  Above all, he forgave me, he forgot everything, he did not even wish me to remember my past myself.

When, through my tears, I began to tell him something of the years during which I betrayed him, he lovingly placed his hand over my mouth in order to silence me.  His one concern was that I should muster courage enough to pick myself up again, to try and carry on walking in spite of my weakness, and to believe in his love in spite of my fears.  But there was one thing he did, the value of which cannot be measured, something truly unbelievable, something only God could do.

While I continued to have doubts about my own salvation, to tell him that my sins could not be forgiven, and that justice, too, had its rights, he appeared on the Cross before me one Friday towards midday.

I was at its foot, and found myself bathed with the blood which flowed from the gaping holes made in his flesh by the nails.  He remained there for three hours until he expired.

I realized that he had died in order that I might stop turning to him with questions about justice, and believe instead, deep within myself, that the scales had come down overflowing on the side of love, and that even though all….through unbelief or madness, had offended him, he had conquered forever, and drawn all things everlastingly to himself.”

—–

Psalm 31:13-17

For I hear the whispering of many–
terror on every side!–
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hands of my enemies
and from my persecutors!
Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
O LORD, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.

Forgiven Much

There’s a lot more I could have said, and I wanted to say.   Worship flows out of understanding ourselves in relation to who God is, and realizing how he sees us: as forgiven.  And by the way, completely unrelated, Robbie Seay Band released a new CD, you should support them and buy it here, it’s amazing!

Here you go, if you haven’t read the eConnect already, or if you care to read:

Staff Corner
Meridith Johnson
, Worship Director

Forgiven Much

       As we have journeyed through Galatians, it seems the word “legalism” and “legalistic” has been used quite a number of times, but part of understanding our legalistic ways, also comes from understanding the depth of our sin and our depravity.  Part of this process involves naming sin for exactly what it is: brokenness and separation from the heart of God.
       In Luke 7, there is a familiar story of Jesus eating with the Pharisees, and during the meal, a “certain immoral woman” came with an expensive jar of perfume, and began to anoint and wash his feet.  Listen to this account of Luke, verse 38 says, “Then she knelt behind him at his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair.  Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.”  The natural response of the Pharisees was something like this, “If he knew who this woman was, and the kinds of sin she has committed, how could he let this woman touch him!?”
      There are many lessons in this particular account of Christ, but what Jesus says at the end of this section is something to be taken to heart, “I tell you, her sins- and they are many- have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love.  But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”  One commentary states, “The woman was not forgiven because of her love; rather, she loved because she was forgiven.  Her faith brought her salvation…” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 224).
      When it comes to legalism in our hearts, how often do we sit back with arms folded and disapproving looks on our faces when someone begins to admit their sin?  This week, Greg will share with us about good behavior, our motives behind our good behavior and what it really reveals about our hearts.  We have been forgiven of much, so therefore, we should love much.  Our love comes from gratitude in our hearts from the simple act of forgiveness.
       I love this story, from Luke 7, because each of us can find ourselves in one or both of the parties spoken about, the sinful woman, and the arrogant Pharisee.   How can we seek to identify ourselves as sinners, who have been forgiven, and to love much?  What are our motives behind our actions?  Is it true “love” for Christ?  Or simply out of legalistic expectations?

Take a few moments to read through this poetic song, of the story from Luke 7, when our response toward Christ and others is motivated by gratitude and love, our worship becomes authentic, and our love for others is even more genuine.

From glass alabaster she poured out the depths of her soul ,
O foot of Christ would you wait if her harlotries known?
Falls a tear to darken the dirt of humblest offerings to forgive the hurt.
She is strong enough to stand in your love I can hear her say:
I am weak, I am poor, I am broken Lord, but I’m yours […]
Looking forward to worshiping with you all on Sunday,
 Meridith