The Ministry of Song 9 (Jesus, the Psalms and Me) 5

When Paul urges us in Colossians 3 to “let the Word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts,” he goes on to say that we’re to do that as we “make melody to the Lord in [y]our hearts” and as we sing and instruct each other in our praises. Now maybe it’s right that our noses should be in our hymnbooks when we’re singing; but it’s spiritually right that we should also have an eye to our brothers and sisters and be praying, “O Lord, sanctify these words I’m singing, in order that my brothers and sisters may be so instructed in their truth, as their lives to be comforted and transformed and centered again on Your glory, and blessed again in genuine fellowship that we enjoy with one another.”

And all of this because the Lord Jesus gathers us as God’s family, and then leads us in the singing of God’s praises.

——Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)

The Ministry of Song 8 (Jesus, the Psalms and Me 4)

Now most of us are at one end of the spectrum or the other. And I suppose our native desire would be for a Christian life in which our emotions were on an absolutely even keel; and one day they will be. But that will be an even keel of prolonged ecstasy, that we will be able to cope with in resurrection bodies that were made for prolonged ecstasy! And until that happens, one of the things that God does to us in worship—and it seems to me so marvelously gracious that He has given us songs to sing that do this in worship—is to take those of us who have layers of emotion that need to be unpacked and unstarched, and He begins to set them free; and those of whose emotions at the other end of the spectrum are out of control, and He takes them and brings them into a certain kind of order and discipline by the very things we sing.

——Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)

The Ministry of Song 7 (Jesus, the Psalms and Me 3)

The pattern for song in the pages of Scripture [especially in the Psalms] is perfectly suited and balanced to the reality for our humanity. And so we’re encouraged in this different way to sing that which varies in theme, that which differs in mood, that which is different in style, that which is singular, that which is repetitive, that which is long, that which is short. Because in all of these areas, our Lord Jesus Christ is, as it were—and this is to me a very important thing—the Lord Jesus Christ is not squeezing our emotions into some small bottle of grace; but stretching and pulling our emotions in order to fulfill and transform our fallen and broken humanity.

—Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)

The Ministry of Song 6 (Jesus, the Psalms and Me 2)

If you make at least a quick survey of the Psalms—and I confess I’ve only done it quickly, you’ll notice a very remarkable thing which is actually perfectly in keeping with the principial teaching of the NT, and that is this: only about a third of the Psalter is addressed to God; another third of the Psalter is addressed to me; and another third of the Psalter is addressed to you. Now isn’t that interesting? Here in the midst often of rather foolish language that has not been tested by Scripture, we are sometimes urged to sing only those things that are directed towards God; and we cannot do that without saying that the Lord Jesus was singing some of the wrong things!

So we need to be very careful, for example, about some of us—you know we all belong to different ends and edges of the spectrum on this—some of us who rather despise songs that have a focus on myself. What is the key thing here? The key thing here is not the question of how many times the first person singular is mentioned, but where those many mentions of the first person singular are eventually going to lead. Are they going to lead me from the first person singular to the three Persons divine? Is it not legitimate for me to sing, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” so long as I am going to sing, “Hope thou in God, send your light forth and your truth, and let them be guides to me”?

—Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)

The Ministry of Song 5 (Jesus, the Psalms and Me)

It’s a marvelous incentive to sing, that you know that it’s Jesus who is leading your singing. [Hebrews 2:12] There’s also I think something that helps us to be calm in the midst of many of the controversies that presently arise about how we sing or what we sing. Because it so happens we know what Jesus enjoyed singing. There are 150 of them that He enjoyed singing—which incidentally is not on my part an argument for exclusive psalmody, although we ought to sing a lot more of them than we do. But doesn’t that teach you something in the midst of the worship wars?. . .

For example, by nature I come to some song that has only six lines in it, and I say, that’s not worthy—until I realize that my Lord Jesus Christ was prepared to sing the 117th Psalm [2 verses].

I get irritated when there is repetition. Now I don’t want to sing “Our God Reigns” 1,009 times any more than you do, but I can’t sing the Psalms with Jesus without knowing that there are lines I’m going to repeat again and again and again and again and again.

—Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)


Sanctifying Song

To a Christian community [in Ephesus] surrounded by ignorance and immorality; to a people who themselves were prone to the blindness and indulgence of their former way of life; at the conclusion of a passage warning against irrationality and sins of the flesh [Ephesians 4:17–5:18] —Paul urges singing and music making [5:18-20].

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Society 46/4 (December 2003), 638


The Ministry of Song 4

Paul shares the same broad concerns [about singing] as Augustine and Calvin, but the recommendation emerging from those concerns is entirely different. To put it very crudely, Augustine says: “Irrationality is bad. Sensuality is bad. Therefore, be careful about music.” Paul on the other hand says, “Foolishness is bad. Sensuality is bad. Therefore, you had better sing.”

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Society 46/4 (December 2003), 638

Hallowing All Food and Time

The eucharistic bread and wine are real bread and wine, . . nonetheless different from our ordinary bread and wine, for they are restored to their true end, they secretly justify and hallow all the food of this world by the promise of the Messianic banquet which they carry.

It is the same with Sunday which restores time to its true end, of doxological duration, and secretly it justifies and hallows all the other days.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theory and Practice, 223-4

What the Father Wants

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.” (John 4:23)

This [italicized] clause has perhaps as much claim as 20:30f. to be regarded as expressing the purpose of the gospel [of John].

—C. K. Barrett, The Gospel according to St. John, 235

The Ministry of Song 2

In songs, hymns and spiritual songs, the world of bodily experience is enlisted in praise, redefined doxologically, and reoriented toward the worship of God and the benefit of the community.

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,”  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 641

[highly recommended! Read it HERE]

Worship in Christ

It is indeed extremely important for us to remember that the uniqueness, the newness of Christian worship is not that it has no continuity with worship “in general,”. . .but that in Christ this very continuity is fulfilled, receives its ultimate and truly new significance so as to truly bring a “natural” worship to an end. Christ is the fulfillment of worship as adoration and prayer, thanksgiving and sacrifice, communion and knowledge, because He is the ultimate “epiphany” of man as worshiping being, the fullness of God’s manifestation and presence by means of the world. He is the true and full Sacrament because He is the fulfillment of the world’s essential “sacramentality.”

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 109

Secularism and Worship

Secularism, I submit, is above all a negation of worship. I stress—not of God’s existence, not of some kind of transcendence and therefore of some kind of religion. If secularism in theological terms is a heresy, it is primarily a heresy about man. It is the negation of man as a worshiping being, as homo adorans: the one for whom worship is the essential act which both “posits” his humanity and fulfills it. It is the rejection as ontologically and epistemologically “decisive,” of the words which “always, everywhere, and for all” were the true “epiphany” of man’s relation to God, to the world, and to himself: “It is meet and right to sing of Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee, and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion. . . .”

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 106

Worship and the World (2)

As Church, as new creation, as people of God and temple of the Holy Spirit… we need water and oil, wine and bread in order to be in communion with God and to know Him. Yet conversely…it is this communion with God by means of “matter” that reveals the true meaning of “matter”, i.e., of the world itself.

For the world to be means of worship and means of grace is not accidental, but revelation of its meaning, the restoration of its essence, the fulfillment of its destiny. It is the “natural sacramentality” of the world that finds its expression in worship and makes the latter the essential ergon of man, the foundation and the spring of his life and activities as man. Being the epiphany of God, worship is thus the epiphany of the world; being communion with God, it is the only true communion with the world; being knowledge of God, it is the ultimate fulfillment of all human knowledge.

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 108

Worship and the World

The world, be it in its totality as cosmos, or in its life and becoming as time and history, is an epiphany of God, a means of His revelation, presence, and power. In other words, it not only “posits” the idea as a rationally acceptable cause of its existence, but truly “speaks” of Him and is itself an essential means both of knowledge of God [Romans 1:19-20] and communion with Him [1;21a], and to be so is its true nature and its ultimate destiny. But then worship is truly an essential act, and man an essentially worshiping being, for it is only in worship that man has the source and the possibility of that knowledge which fulfills itself as true knowledge: knowledge of God and therefore knowledge of the world—communion with God and therefore communion with all that exists. Thus the very notion of worship is based on an intuition and experience of the world as an “epiphany” of God, thus the world—in worship—is revealed in its true nature and vocation as “sacrament.”

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 107-8





“Seven Stanzas at Easter”

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

—John Updike, “Seven Stanzas at Easter” from Telephone Poles and Other Poems

Worship Is Not a Work!

Objectively, what brings us into the presence of God is the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. If we ascribe to worship (meaning, in this context, our corporate praise and adoration) something of this power, it will not be long before we think of such worship as being meritorious, or efficacious, or the like.

—D.A. Carson, Worship by the Book, 50

Resurrection Perspective

It was not that the disciples of Jesus were more stupid than other human beings and therefore “just didn’t get it.” It was that neither they nor we can “get it” until we know how the story ends. The birth, ministry, and death of Jesus must be understood in light of the resurrection or the understanding will be greatly diminished. It is no accident that the observance of Christian time, the day and the week and the year, is grounded in and organized around the resurrection celebration.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 27-28