Epic Themes of Worship

In preparation for a weekend retreat involving our Tennessee Ladies Chorus and Tennessee Mens Chorale I have been listening to a new (yet to be released) recording of Christmas music by Keith & Kristyn Getty.  Keith slipped me a copy of the rough recording knowing that Kristyn and he would be joining us for a Friday evening rehearsal session readying us for a December concert of music, “An irish Christmas.”  It would be an understatement to say I am excited about having the choir singers I love and appreciate so much join the song-writing recording icons for a concert at the famed Schermerhorn Symphony Hall here in Nashville.  Before last Friday’s rehearsal I must have listened to that recording ten times thru.

My kid-like excitement for all of this stems largely from my deep appreciation of the integrity and character of the music given the Church by the Gettys.  Several years ago I was introduced to Getty songs by friend and fellow student of worship, the late Carl “Chip” Stam of Southern Seminary.  I often turn to Getty songs to serve as examples of music that can help a congregation pray in community through singing, or join in shared proclamation of faith.  Following the events leading up to and including last weekend’s time with the Gettys, I think I know better why their music so enraptures me and arrests my imagination.  It is an over arching theme that often points the listener/participant toward notions of epic proportions.

Lest you think this article is a push for using Getty music (a push I could certainly give), I want to quickly turn your attention to a larger consideration sparked once again in my mind by listening to the Christmas recording.  Christian worship has the capacity to offer the human imagination a view of what God is doing in the world and what He has been doing through all of time.  It helps remind worshipers of God’s place and power to do those things.  He is, after all, God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.  In the midst of a culture saturated with bad news, self-absorbed individualism, and a pessimistic view of future, worship encourages our vision of the Lamb upon His throne, He Who made all things and in all things hold together.  At the very same time Christian worship has capability to convey something of the measure of God’s goodness, longsuffering patience, and His merciful kindness.  In other words, biblical Christian worship reflects the character of God Himself.  Of course worship has capacity to draw us to consider ways the Lord may be at work in the most intimate details of our individual lives.  In fact, our sense of His work in our individual lives may be strengthened most by our understanding of God’s omnipresence and thus help us to watch more closely everywhere and at all times for ways His traits might be revealed.  I wonder at times, however, if our focus has not become so narrowly on how we feel and/or whether we “feel” Him at work meeting our individual needs that we might lose the larger objective of worship, God’s revelation of Himself in Christ.

If I was a parent with a sick child who seriously needed healing, there is no doubt I would cry out to God with my individual need.  It is quite possible that I might desire to hear words in worship that would speak to my individual need and bring me comfort.  I would likely benefit from knowing the story of others who had been down similar paths.  It would likely calm me for someone to assure me that my child’s physical needs would be met.  Realization that these and other needs are often (perhaps every week) represented in our worship gatherings make it all the more important for our worship to continue to evidence Who God is.  As a parent of a sick child it would be important for me to not only know God could heal my child according to His will , but to know something of the very character of God indicated in His word and through His people and His word.

I have had prayer requests expressed to me recently that place me at a complete loss for words.  The need is so great.  When needs expressed reveal the dark of lostness, or of mental and emotional confusion, or reveal life stumbles that are quite likely to destroy families and other relationships, I have no answers in and of myself.  Such inexpressible needs are all the more reason our worship must lift up the God Who is sovereign and Who has been tempted at all points as we have.  These kinds of situations are all the more reason we need to worship around those epic themes that remind us of ultimate triumph of our Lord.  One of the songs from Irish Christmas that I have played over and over has been the 6th Century hymn, O Savior of Our Fallen Race.  Its marvelous text includes these words that give a flavor of the hope and sense of right order of which I speak:

O Jesus, very Light of light

Our constant star in sin’s deep night

Now hear the prayers your people pray

Throughout the world this holy day

As you plan and lead worship for your church do not lose sight of the epic themes of good over evil, Christ’s Lordship and ultimate victory.  It is part of our welcome responsibility to help others discover “Joy to the world! Let heaven and nature sing.”  Perhaps we should pray with Tozer:

Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor,
above my ambitions,
above my likes and dislikes,
above my family,
my health and even my life itself.

Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase,
let me sink that Thou mayest rise above.

– A.W. Tozer

Humbled by His Greatness,


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, Youth Worship

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