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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wrinkles

20 07 2009

I’ll try to keep these silly posts to a minimum (I promise you, I can make a spiritual analogy out of anything), but I thought this was a good one to share:

We were running late for church yesterday.  And as we were walking up the steps to the sanctuary, I was making all of those last-minute adjustments: patting down my hair, making sure my shoes are on the right feet, that my clothes are on right-side-out, etc.  I looked down and noticed a wrinkle in my shirt but told Jordan, “Oh well, I think this shirt is probably representative of my faith anyway.  It’s probably fitting that I’m wearing it to church.”

Although he made fun of me at the time, I got to thinking about it and thought that my description was actually pretty apt.  After all, the Bible is more concerned about clothing than you might think:

“I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…”

– Isaiah 61:10

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

– Colossians 3:12-14

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

– Ephesians 6:13-17

I don’t know about you, but I certainly have wrinkles in my robe of righteousness! As well as in my compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility, and patience …

Perhaps it is indeed better to come before God just as I am … wrinkles and all!