Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
– cast off that I might be brought in,
– trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend,
– surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best,
– stripped that I might be clothed,
– wounded that I might be healed,
– athirst that I might drink,
– tormented that I might be comforted,
– made a shame that I might inherit glory,
– entered darkness that I might have eternal light.
My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
– groaned that I might have endless song,
– endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
– bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
– bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
– experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
– closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,
– expired that I might for ever live.
–from The Valley of Vision
SHEPHERD PSALM OF THE MODERN AMERICAN
The clock is my dictator; I shall not rest.
It makes me lie down only when exhausted;
It leads me to deep depression;
It hounds my soul.
It leads me in circles of frenzy for activity’s sake.
Even though I run frantically from task to task I will never get it all done.
For my ideal is with me;
Deadlines and my need for approval they drive me;
They demand performance from me beyond the limits of my schedule.
They anoint my head with migraines;
My in-basket overflows.
We cannot possibly flatter the Almighty by hurrying into His presence,
flinging a song and prayer at Him,
and hurrying out of church back into our hassled lifestyles.
God is never flattered by our sanctified exhaustion.
–Calvin Miller, Into the Depths of God
Suppose a man was going to New York to take possession of a large estate, and his carriage should break down a mile before he got to the city, which obliged him to walk the rest of the way; what a fool we should think him, if we saw him wringing his hands, and blubbering out all the remaining mile, “My carriage is broken! My carriage is broken!”
–John Newton (in Richard Cecil, “Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton,” The Works of the Rev. John Newton, Vol. 1 [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985], 108 )
* * * * *
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
–Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:45-46)
Through heaven and earth so shall My glory excel,
But mercy first and last shall brightest shine.
–Milton, Paradise Lost
* * * *
“He exalts himself to show mercy to you.”
* * * *
“For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.”
The current generation of Christians, having been raised in a culture of television, radio, CDs and personal listening devices, has slipped into the habit of living life vicariously. We no longer gather around the piano for an informal sing-along, but just slide a CD or DVD into the player. Our “sophisticated” tastes have come to expect and be satisfied only with polished symphony orchestras, high-profile singing idols and technological bells and whistles. We are dissatisfied with our own often imperfect attempts to make music and want to be “ministered to,” if not by professionals, at least by the more competent and gifted in our congregation. . . .
Indeed, many great pieces of music were never intended to be sung by a group at all, but rather by soloists. Meditating on the words of a song performed by others can be a significant spiritual exercise, as much as reflecting on the words of a book written by a Christian author of acknowledged wisdom and insight. The value of listening to beautiful music itself, apart from the lyrics, should not be underestimated. We are created in the image of a creator God, as creative beings ourselves, and the exercise of our creative gifts can bring glory to God as well as edification and pleasure to others.
Performance of sacred music certainly has a valuable place in the worship service. Problems ensue, however, when performance dominates the music at the expense of participation. Morganthaler warns, “We are not producing worshippers in this country. Rather, we are producing a generation of spectators, religious onlookers lacking, in many cases, any memory of a true encounter with God” [Sally Morgenthaler, Worship Evangelism, 17].
–Mary L. Conway, “Worship Music: Maintaining Dynamic Tension,” McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry 7 (2006): 145-46 www.mcmaster.ca/mjtm/pdfs/vol7/MJTM_7-7_Conway.pdf
All music is a product of culture, past or present, and . . . previous historical cultures were as deeply flawed as our modern Western one. Even the Israelite culture that produced the Psalms, the ultimate book of praise songs and the only one to achieve canonical status (something even Bach and Isaac Watts have failed to do), was constantly corrupted by syncretism, apostasy and sin. . . . The tendency to use what is familiar and popular—the musical vernacular—and sanctify it for holy purposes, has powerful precedents throughout church history.
–Mary L. Conway, “Worship Music: Maintaining Dynamic Tension,” McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry 7 (2006): 150-51 www.mcmaster.ca/mjtm/pdfs/vol7/MJTM_7-7_Conway.pdf