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What I Loved About Worship Last Sunday

It’s no secret that I’m a dinosaur, a has-been, an old person who is personally responsible for every failing of society, and the primary reason why so many millennials don’t already live in the Utopia they are sure they will be able to create just as soon as my generation finally gets out of their way… preferably by dying, or retiring to Florida.  In church, my fixation on the past glories of my own youth is an embarrassment, an ugly ball and chain, particularly my old fashioned biblical mores, and, almost as bad, my old tyme music from like the 70s, 80s or 90s or worse yet, Hymns.

To our modern youth culture, therefore, I would like to apologize for being alive, and for daring to long for church music that I not only know, but that is constructed of something more than an endless chain of bumper sticker sentiments and out of context references to biblical texts that the song writers have seemingly never read, and definitely don’t understand.

But alas, my title promised an upbeat message about how much I enjoyed worship on Sunday, so let me get on to that.

We sang a song I didn’t know, year old I guess, but I loved it. Rather than being filled with sentimental drivel that spends more time celebrating  my feelings about this or that than celebrating His attributes and majesty and mighty works, this song was God directed and lacked a single reference to the worshiper. Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to reference the worshiper, or his feelings, biblical psalms do it all the time… oh wait, I’m a fuddy-duddy[1] has been, I should say that psalms do it all the tyme… golly gee willikers… but there does seem to me to be a tad too much emphasis on the worshiper and not enough on the worshiped.

Next we sang one of my favorite songs from my early days as a bible college professor… also majestic, God focused, His works centered. We celebrated Him and His power and inclination to protect and save.

We ended with a similarly themed hymn, one of the great hymns of the church age, filled with properly contexted wonder at the world that God has made and it’s role in displaying his majesty to the ages of men.  It is one of the great hymns of the church age specifically because it combines great music with a great message and helps to get the eyes of the worshipper off of himself or herself and onto God and Christ and the mighty work that he has done in creation, on behalf of humanity in the sending of His son, in the daily life of the worshiper who stands in awe of His divine grace, mercy and holiness. It celebrates the greater wonder that will be ours in the age to come, when all the promises of God are fulfilled and we will spend eternity before Him.

Now, I know that the hymns’ age has an advantage over modern song writing that cannot be ignored when seeking to critique them… namely that one is forced to compare ALL the music of the present with only the BEST music of the past. Someone once said, It’s not good to compare someone else’s highlight moments to your own behind the scenes footage.

And so, let it be said that the ages of the church have produced a lot of duds… trust me, I’ve been in a few churches that sing those too. What we mostly sing from the past, however, are the best of the best, those songs that stood the test of time, combining the best lyrics with the best music. Fanny Crosby, for instance, wrote some 9000 hymns, but only a handful are still sung today… but that handful are truly majestic wonders of worship and adoration for God and His Work.

Is it fair then to compare every new song to this collection of masterpieces? Yes and no.

On the one hand we need to give our modern worship song writers the creative space they need to experiment… though I imagine that gaining a solid handle on Scripture and theology would be a big help even here. So, give them a break; let them try and try and try some more.

We need to continue to grow in our expressions of worship, and to allow each generation to make age long worship sentiments their own.

On the other hand, these songs are great for a reason, are loved for a reason, are still being sung, even after centuries, for a reason. It would behoove our modern worship leaders to respect that. Not only should these songs continue to be sung, though not to the exclusion of newer material, but they should also be mined and imitated for what made them great.

Just so, there are some really great songs that emerge out of every generation. We should continue to sing those too.

[1]fuddyduddy, sometimes without the hyphen, is a person who is fussy while old-fashioned, traditionalist, conformist, or conservative, sometimes almost to the point of eccentricity or geekiness. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuddy-duddy

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