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)

Moving Our Affections

The duty of singing praises to God seems to be given wholly to excite and express religious affections. There is no other reason why we should express ourselves to God in verse rather than in prose and with music, except that these things have a tendency to move our affections.

—Jonathan Edwards (cited in Woods & Walrath, The Message in the Music, 121)

Worship and Feelings

Rabbi Abraham Herschel was once confronted with a complaint from his congregation. Some of the members of the synagogue told him that the liturgy did not express what they felt. Would he please change it? Herschel wisely told them that it was not for the liturgy to express what they felt, it was for them to learn to feel what the liturgy expressed.

—Ben Patterson, Serving God: The Grand Essentials of Work and Worship, 117 (citing Richard John Neuhaus, Freedom for Ministry)

Shunning Sameness

If worship is always entirely exuberant or always entirely solemn, we send the message to God’s people that only certain emotions are religiously acceptable.  But God invites us to bring our whole selves to worship—surely the chaotic emotions expressed in the book of Psalms amply demonstrate this.  In the presence of God, as God’s people, we can feel sadness, joy, contrition, thankfulness, peace, grief, agitation, anger, reverence, assurance, determination, and every nuance of human experience.  Using vivid language avoids a kind of bland sameness that associates being in worship only with a detached pose of religiosity. 

—Debra and Ron Rienstra, Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry, 34