In the introduction of a book, I came across this snippet from an American newspaper on new trends in church music. It said this:
“There are several reasons for opposing it. One it’s too new. Two, it’s 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 puts too much emphasis on the instrumental music rather godly lyrics. This new music creates disturbances making people act indecently and disorderly. The preceding generation got along without it.”
What might surprise you is that this comment was written in 1723 in response to Isaac Watts’ hymn ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross.’
When we think about worship, often our first response is to think about songs and music. However the Bible gives us a much broader and more dynamic vision for worship, that includes singing and music, but within the scope of our whole lives coming under the loving care and authority of God as Lord and creator of all things. Singing and music have their place, but they fall within this broader vision of worship.
I heard a wonderful definition about worship on the Radio once. I didn’t catch who said it but it was this,
“A life at full stretch before God.”
It spoke to me about a whole life in the pursuit of God and His ways. Surely this is our act of true worship, putting our lives before God and being shaped by a posture of surrender to His ways in the world.
In Mark 12 a teacher of the law is impressed by Jesus’ wisdom and asks him what the most important commandment is? It is like he is asking what a life stretched out before God is all about? Jesus response? “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’” (30-31) Life is about loving God and neighbour in the same breath, not simply on a Sunday when we sing, but in every part of who we are and what we do. Naturally this is incredibly exciting and challenging in equal measure. It will be, just like it was for the first disciples, an imperfect journey of trust and prayer as we ask for the help, strength and forgiveness to be faithful worshippers of God.
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches us to pray, ‘Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ When we pray and worship we enter more fully into a relationship with God that affects our whole lives and this over time changes and transforms us from one degree of glory to the next as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 3.18.
I’m excited that this is the journey we are on. It’s not one we do alone, but in community. It’s one we have the opportunity to invite others to be part of as we participate in the mission of God in the world, through loving acts of sharing and service. Let’s be a community who live our lives at full stretch before God.