Saturday, March 18, 2006

poetry as in song to the Lord

Our best worship songs and hymns are examples of poetry that we sing about and to God. And about our life in God. Scripture is full of this kind of poetry. The psalms are prime examples, called the Song Book of God's people. Examples (some arguably) of poetry that may have been used in the primitive (very early) church are in the New Testament (for example: Romans 11:33-36; Philippians 2:6-11; 1 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 4:8; 4:11; 5:9-10; 5:12; 5:13; 7:12; 11:15; 11:17-18; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 19:6-8). The Old Testament prophets are written largely in poetic form. And even parts of Scripture not in poetic form (in prose) have been skillfully made into song (examples that would work: Philippians 4:6-7 -see NLT; Romans 8:1-2 -I've heard this one put to song; John 3:16 -many of us have heard that one put to song, etc.)

Perhaps a majority of our best worship songs and hymns come from what A.W. Tozer called, "a sanctified imagination". Such songs are steeped in Scripture, though not found in Scripture. Examples of these abound.

Songs do often reflect ones tradition. Be it Lutheran, Reformed Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, etc. We should appreciate what we can of such songs (and we may be surprised just how many of these songs we can sing). And use them as we so choose. Many of the songs I like best are those that can be sung in any of the great Christian traditions. We may often disagree as to precisely the meaning of the words in the song. But can heartily sing them as to the Lord.

Christians songs are powerful in shaping peoples' thoughts and lives. They include an element that is, sorry to say, usually lacking in our reading of Scripture: saying and hearing the words spoken. And put to a tune and rhythym, they can penetrate into the very hearts and minds, and then lives, of those who sing them. This can be so easily underrated among us who are heirs of the Protestant Reformation, in which the preaching of the Word of God- Scripture, is given such supreme place in practice. But singing songs in worship to God is on the increase among many of us from that tradition. Just this week at RBC Ministries during our chapel, we had a great time of worship, singing songs and hymns woven well together. It was refreshing. Just as good as hearing a good message or teaching from someone during that half hour. Maybe better, since we seem (to me, myself included) much better practiced in the latter than in the former.

Thank you Father for the gift of music. Let us enter in, singing your praises and glory. Let this be in tune with you. And let this be from us to you, as well as from you to us. In your Son and by your Spirit. Amen.


Rusty Peterman said...


Music/song = God's instant transforming connection to get heaven flowwing through our hearts.

Singing praise transforms us from the inside out and transports us to the world of kingdom reality.

A praise song shared in a gathering with other Christ-followers is like the best signal, with the most bars on my cell phone.

I make a connection with the kingdom when a read the Jesus Creed. It's an even stronger connection when I verbally speak it. But the connection leaps to another level of clarity when I'm singing praise and love to God with other believers.

No wonder we're singers. God is.

"On that day they will say to Jerusalem, 'Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.' The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:16-17).

"...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Looks like singing is a good way for this to start. Singing is the stuff of where God is. Both in heaven and on earth.

Ted Gossard said...

Rusty, thanks for sharing that. Some day we'll have to get our guitars out together and sing some songs to the Lord.

fatherneo said...

Great post. My wife is a musician who has reworked some of the hymns in our hymnal (Episcopal). We try to do the 'Ancient-Future' thing at our church. The modern music connects people well enough, but the ancient hymns have the theological substance that is so lacking these days. Blessings on you and your family.

Ted Gossard said...

fatherneo, thanks so much. Sounds like you have a nice mix of songs and hymns in your gathering.

Yes, though I like some of the newer songs, ancient church music should never be displaced, but I fear that much of it is all but lost to many of us.

I wish I was more familiar with the ancient hymns you speak of.

Blessings to you and yours.

Randy Brubaker said...

Hey Ted

Thanks for writing on a subject that is near and dear to my heart. The great thing about worship songs, is that they not only are inspired by the Spirit, but also inspire the Spirit to move among the congregation. What are your thought's on the current trend of some artists to focus more on the production of the song rather than the song itself. I see a trend going that way. I think It's probably the record companies who are realizing there is money to be made from the "Christian" community. How sad!

Ted Gossard said...

Randy, Great to hear from you! I've been thinking lately that we need to get together again soon.

You're keeping up on what's going on in worship music better than I am. I agree with what you're saying. When packaging becomes more important, or as important as what's in the package, I wonder about it. The song itself is what counts, musically and poetically. I appreciate hearing a song that is sung and played in a simple way.

Thanks brother, and let's get together soon.