THE STRANGE PRACTICE OF SINGING AT THE CROSS

CrossWho steps up to an execution sight and sings?  After all, Ravi Zacharias points us to consider just how humiliating the cross really was; humiliating and excruciating.  In fact, he notes the word, “excruciating” comes from the Latin: ex cruciatus.  Crucifixion on the cross is the very definition of pain.  To a world given to comfort at all costs, we surely seem like wacko’s at this season of the year when we place so much attention on the cross.  How does our marketing team overcome this obstacle?  What is appealing about coming to a cross?  Seems to me that too often churches are obsessed with perceived “success.”  Trevin Wax recently posted a stark reminder by quoting a genuine way of the cross follower, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done….  

The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.

In his best selling book, Radical, David Platt confronts us with the Gospel’s call to follow the way of the cross.  A tough message for all believers, it seems a particularly challenging charge to deliver to American evangelicals in our day.  We have become use to worship that fits the way we want it, lyrics sung to the kind of music we like to hear.  Our singing tends to be about us.  Worship singing tends to be what Pete Ward classifies as reflexive, focusing on the worshiper’s experience of intimacy in the present moment more than on the historic events that bring us salvation’s truth.  While there is good reason to celebrate personal acceptance by faith in salvation’s message, and the moment we, like John Wesley, had our “heart strangely warmed,” the great truth we proclaim is the finished work of Christ.  This is an historic fact.

In its best observance the season of Lent ushers us to the cross and prepares us for its scandalous truth that will confront us in our sinfulness and at once invite us to accept its victory, an unspeakable gift of God’s grace.  Here the unbeliever can find salvation’s claims.  Here believers can reaffirm faith, and be renewed in God’s grand story where we take up our cross and follow Him.  Singing and retelling the story, let us embrace the cross.  Might I ask you to consider renewed dedication to:

  1. Be unafraid to display its shame in our singing
  2. Be unashamed to reveal its message in our singing
  3. Be bold to proclaim its victory in our singing
  4. Celebrate your own deliverance rooted in what Christ has done, and sing in that spirit of praise that points others to see Him

There are numerous songs of all styles that aid our worship in the season of Lent.  As we move toward Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Good Friday, and toward glorious Resurrection Sunday, let us sing our faith in ways that encourage worshipers to look upon the acts of the Savior, and indeed upon the Savior Himself.  Let us take care not to park our attention yet again upon ourselves, even ourselves worshiping, but instead, purposefully point our attention to the nature and character of our Lord, and see the saving acts that reveal that nature.  Perhaps, rather than feeling good about ourselves as we are, we might come to the cross and confront our proneness to wander, and repent afresh to faithfully follow our Savior.  Maybe we need to plan opportunities to sing more in our worship during this season.  Consider planning for worship singing before and after the spoken Word, and/or before and after observance of the Table including invitational response – altar calls.  Certainly the list of songs is rich with worship expression.  What are some to be sung in your setting?  Here are just a few likely to be sung in the Baptist world:

Songs

Beautiful Savior
Behold the Lamb
Communion Hymn
Fairest Lord Jesus
God So Loved the World
Hallelujah! What a Savior
Jesus Paid It All
Lamb of Glory
Lamb of God
Lift High the Name of Jesus
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
The Power of the Cross
When I Survey
Worthy Is the Lamb

Testimonial Songs in Light of His Work

Amazing Love
And Can It Be?
Before the Throne of God Above
It Is Well with My Soul
Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners

 

Prayer Before Singing 
A song is a beautiful thing!
Voices join in full-throated melody,
And lift to blend in glorious harmony,
Men’s hearts are moved, e’en lifted to ecstasy
With a song;
For a song is a beautiful thing.
 
But when I sing: Lord, let it not be for this alone,
Lest fruitless I be when day is done;
Touch Thou my lips,
Thy beauty let me see,
And fill my heart with love eternally,
That men may come to know and adore Thee;
Lord, this prayer I bring, Lord, for Thee I sing!
–Don Hustad, ©1959
Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church keyboard players, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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