Greatest Song of All

This post is a pretty personal transparent reflection on experiences of last weekend.  Those who regularly read the column who are expecting more objective fair may be disappointed in the content.  I welcome your response, but beg your indulgence with my attempt to describe experiences in which I sensed the Spirit at work.

 

Last weekend I was privileged to lead a mass choir from a Baptist regional association in West Tennessee in a Saturday rehearsal and a Sunday evening service of music.  In addition I was invited to preach Sunday morning at a church where my longtime friend, Jackie Vaughan serves as Minister of Music.  I attended college with Jackie and his sweet wife, Amy.  I wrestled with whether to preach my one sermon that I have preached many times when conducting worship renewal through congregational singing conferences, or to develop and share something newer that the Lord had been working in my mind and spirit.  After much prayer and reflection I decided the latter is what the Lord would have me preach.

 

I was literally in the midst of preparing the message for Sunday when I received a call from J.V. (his monicker from college days).  He told me that Amy’s mother had passed away and the service would be Saturday.  Assured that nothing would change for my weekend schedule, we nevertheless exchanged commitments to pray for one another through the emotional challenges J.V. would face and certainly to be praying for Amy and the rest of her family.  That same morning I received a facebook message from a very close friend of my wife and mine whose husband’s memorial service I had performed and whose marriage to her current husband I had also performed.  They were planning to attend Sunday’s service to see and hear me.  I was moved by the confirmation of direction for Sunday’s message which proclaimed a song that echoes through history, the song of deliverance, the song of the redeemed and the Redeemer.  As I continued preparation for both Sunday sermon and associational choir responsibilities I was reminded that I was much more comfortable leading music than preaching, but was profoundly struck by the connections of the two and deeply stirred at God’s timing that was unfolding before me regarding the weekend.  Profoundly the Truth of God connects to the people of God.

 

On Saturday the choir began to arrive for rehearsal at the newly renovated First Baptist Church Dresden where the Sunday night concert would be held.  It is always a rich blessing to me to observe God’s people welcoming one another in those settings, especially when they are from different churches who do not regularly worship with each other, but their sense of community is evident, a phenomenon that honors Christ and bears witness to the love He instills in the hearts of His own.  As we were preparing to rehearse another college buddy and fraternity brother stepped up to me, Phil “Pipes” Rowlett.  I had forgotten that he lived in that area, but did recall that he had recently lost his wife to an aggressive cancer.  At dinner that followed the rehearsal we determined that instead of staying at a retreat center that night I would come and bunk at Pipes’ house, since he had room and we had not been able to visit for a number of years.  More pointedly, I could not help but ache for him in his loss and just wanted to be together for a little more time.

 

Sunday morning was a wonderful, though emotional, time.  Breakfast together with Pipes, J.V., and Amy at J.V.’s house stirred memories of “old times” and affections of Christian brotherhood that never grow old.  The Sunday morning service of worship was emotional as Amy played the piano through tears, J.V. and his daughter, Julie who sang in an ensemble struggled to sing through momentary pauses that can catch us in moments when the meaning of song lyrics impart the powerful impact that resides in them all the time, but become explosive when the application is so immediately intense.  The message that I shared, “The Greatest Song of All” proclaimed the song that echoes through all of scripture, the song of deliverance that brings glory to the Deliverer.  There were moments I had to pause to catch emotions since I had a strong sense of those present who had lost loved ones which included Amy, J.V., Julie, and the friend I mentioned earlier.  The service was a sweet time of worship with that church and following the service the day continued to prove rich in fellowship and emotional swings from knee slapping laughter to tearful hugs.  It was the Lord’s Day and His resurrection power seemed at work in making our lives new, even through celebration and sorrow with old friends.

 

Sunday night’s mass choir service of worship and praise was the proverbial icing on the cake.  Before the service began I saw several more friends from different aspects of my life, like a pastor, Keith Sumner from TBC committee work, and Don McCulley, pastor of the Dresden church and a man important to family as he has been pastor to my daughter-in-law and performed the wedding ceremony for my son and her.  Just before time to begin I received a tap on the back and subsequent brotherly hug from Kerry Stopher whose daughter, Brittany is like our own and who was like a second dad to our daughter, especially during the time the girls were roommates at Union.  Kerry, too, had lost his first wife, Brittany’s mom, and has remarried a lovely sweet lady who was with him for worship.

 

From beginning to end the service Sunday night rang out with the song of which I spoke Sunday morning and around which we gather every time we worship, the Gospel.  Those gathered, choir singers and congregation alike, seemed to clearly echo the song of heaven, beginning with Hallelujah! Praise the Lamb and continuing through the entire program.  Though I know we cannot judge motives for certain, but it really seemed to me that eruptions of applause were centered in expression of praise for He Who is Holy, Holy, Holy, and not just response to a performing choir of friends and relatives.  There was an unmistakable tone of victory and gratitude for Gospel truth at work in us all.  Songs like One Faith, One Hope, One Lord, and Settled at the Cross, and I Believe It All served as profound statements of faith.  Great Is Thy Faithfulness and Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) gave voice to grateful hearts in worship.

 

John Koessler has reminded us that “the biblical portrait of worship” moves in an opposite direction of what we often think.  He states “the trajectory of heavenly worship begins with God and descends to earth.”  The miracle of worship is Emmanuel!  Our God is with us!  To my sensibilities He seemed very much present Sunday, the Lord’s Day, in the settings in which I had privilege to worship.  His song of deliverance was very much alive.  After a lengthy and quite fun visit with Tommy Moore and son Josh (the fun part almost goes without saying), I drove home in a state of prayerful reflection.  I was praising the Lord for His Sovereignty in the timing of the weekend’s activities amidst times of heartache for people I love much and the opportunity to be present to share ministry and express love and concern.  The longer I reflected the stronger it hit me that this is what occurs every single week in our churches.  There are people every week who step into our houses of worship who desperately need to hear Gospel truth of God’s love and promise.  They need to be reminded of the work of our Savior.  The message is needed by those whose faith does not yet reside there and by those who need to be reminded that it is an eternal source of rest and peace as well as triumphant victory.  The song we sing, the song of deliverance, song of the redeemed and the Redeemer, echoes the song of Heaven where worship begins.  O that we would be spared the stress of putting on a production and rediscover the simple yet glorious joy of singing indicated in Rev 15:3 – “the song of Moses and of the Lamb.”

 

Hallelujah! Praise the Lamb!

Paul

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Shared Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

2 Comments on “Greatest Song of All”

  1. Sammy Rich Says:

    Paul:

    I don’t know how well you preach. But you are a good writer. Keep the faith. I really liked your statement, “profoundly, the Truth of God connects to the people of God.”

    Sammy Rich

    • Paul Clark Jr Says:

      Thank you Sammy. it is the miracle of Incarnation and of the Holy Scriptures – proof of His love for us. Good to hear from you. Thanks for reading.


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