Sojourners

Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they do not dwell off somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor do they practice an extraordinary style of life…But while they dwell in the cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the local customs, both in clothing and food and the rest of life, the constitution of their citizenship is nevertheless quite amazing and admittedly paradoxical. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they share all things as citizens and suffer all things as strangers. Every foreign country is a homeland to them, and every homeland is a foreign country.

Epistle to Diognetus 5:1-5 (translated by Gordon W. Lathrop in “Every Foreign Country a Homeland, Every Homeland a Foreign Country: On Worship and Culture” in Worship and Culture  Foreign Country or Homeland? (ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey),  10-11

Facets of Worship

I am grateful for an instructive experience I had near the beginning of my work as a liturgical choral conductor, hearing comments of four worshipers after a service in which my choir had participated. The first, obviously either a veteran chorister or former drill sergeant, remarked: “That choir’s procession was as precise and symmetrical as any I have seen.” The second participant commented: “I loved the exuberant style of that choir.” The third observed, as if making a new discovery: “I couldn’t believe how each piece of music went so well with the Scripture readings that preceded it.” The fourth, in a noticeably reflective tone, added: “My husband died six months ago, and tonight through your music, I finally have been able to pray.” These comments each illustrate a different level of attention and analysis. The first addresses matters of mechanics, the second matters of style, the third, the form of worship; only the fourth evokes worship’s deep meaning and purpose.

John D. Witvliet, “Teaching Worship as a Christian Practice by John D. Witvliet” (in For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry, ed. Dorothy C. Bass & Craig Dykstra), 137 

Faithful

From the depths of hell I call the fiends, and for this earth I call the tried and afflicted believers, and to heaven I appeal, and challenge the long experience of the blood-washed host, and there is not to be found in the three realms a single person who can bear witness to one fact which can disprove the faithfulness of God or weaken His claim to be trusted by His servants.  There are many things that may or may not happen, but this I know shall happen—

He shall present my soul
Unblemished and complete
Before the glory of His face
With joys divinely great.

All the purposes of man have been defeated, but not the purposes of God.  He is a promise-keeping God, and every one of His people shall prove it to be so.

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), quoted in Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., A Passion for God: Prayers and Meditations on the Book of Romans, 123

Heart Surgery

O for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free,
A heart that’s sprinkled with the blood
So freely shed for me.

A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
My great Redeemer’s throne,
Where only Christ is heart to speak,
Where Jesus reigns alone.

A humble, lowly, contrite heart,
Believing, true and clean,
Which neither life nor death can part
From Him that dwells within.

A heart in every thought renewed
And full of love divine,
Perfect and right and pure and good—
A copy, Lord, of thine.

Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart.
Come quickly from above.
Write Thy new name upon my heart,
Thy new, best name of love.

—Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Dressing for Worship

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,

compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

—Colossians 3:12-14

Pleasing the Father

We must beware of the naïve idea that our music can ‘please’ God as it would please a cultivated human hearer. That is like thinking, under the old Law, that He really needed the blood of bulls and goats. To which an answer came, ‘mine are the cattle upon a thousand hills’, and ‘if I am hungry, I will not tell thee.’ If God (in that sense) wanted music, He would not tell us. For all our offerings, whether of music or martyrdom, are like the intrinsically worthless present of a child, which a father values indeed, but values only for the intention.

—C.S. Lewis, “On Church Music,” Christian Reflections 98-99

“Contemporary” Songs

“There are several reasons for opposing it. One, it’s too new. Two, its often worldly, even blasphemous. The new Christian music is not as pleasant as the more established style because there are so many new songs, you can’t learn them all. It also puts too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than on Godly lyrics. This new music creates disturbances, making people act indecently and disorderly. The preceding generation got along without it.”

William Romaine, an Anglican Calvinist, wrote this quote in 1775 . . . critiquing Isaac Watts’ hymns. Yes, that’s right, he wrote this critique entitled, “An Essay on Psalmody” against the hymns that Isaac Watts had written: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, O God Our Help in Ages Past, Give to Our God Immortal Praise, and the other hymns that they had begun using in their “contemporary worship” of the day.

—C. Matthew McMahon