This is the Song that Doesn’t End…

3 11 2009

Jordan and I attended a mini-lecture tonight at Emory University given by Ed Phillips, associate professor of worship and liturgical theology at Candler School of Theology.  He focused on a familiar passage from the United Methodist Communion Prayer:

“And so, with  your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymnHolyholyholy Lord, God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of your glory…”

This “unending hymn” is described in the book of Isaiah and then again in the Revelation of John.  Apparently all the company of heaven is continuously singing of the holiness of the Lord God.  And when we sing that familiar hymn, we  are literally singing along with them.  This liturgy in particular, and corporate worship in general, connects us with something deep and wonderful: with our brothers and sisters from all Christian denominations around the globe; with the history of the church and the most ancient written liturgies; with the original writers of the Bible, through their visions; with the saints and angels in heaven; and with God Himself.

Dr. Phillips’ talk really brought us into a new understanding of corporate worship; not as something we create, or do; but as something that we join.  We add our voices into the history and tradition of the church universal, lifting our songs to heaven.  In that sense, worship can never truly be an individual thing.

For us as musicians, this is an important and humbling concept: one that reaches into the heart and true purpose of worship.  We talk a lot about how church services should not be a performance, but in striving for excellence in artistry and musicianship, it is sometimes difficult to draw the line between worship and performance.  But this idea of “joining in the unending hymn” means that you have to acknowledge that the church is bigger than your church walls, and that your particular service is only one small piece of the bigger song, which will continue forever, with or without you.  Then you start to realize that this God thing is bigger than you could ever imagine and you definitely want to be a part of it, giving your all to the God of power and might, who was and is and is to come.

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One response

4 11 2009
Linda

And while we know in our heads that “God is bigger”, etc. it really takes us consciously thinking about that to bring it to the forefront of our minds as we worship. It’s kind of “goose-bumpy” when you think of joining with thousands and thousands in the same worship.

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