This is the eighth in a series of bulletin inserts on corporate worship at Trinity URC. Full Series (to date)–>HERE
Corporate worship begins with a series of elements that move rather quickly: God, our great King, summons us into his throne room in the call to worship; we respond with the invocation, in which we call upon his name and look to him for help; he then greets us with words of grace, mercy, and peace. All of these elements move rather quickly, but if we are paying attention to what is going, we cannot help but be moved to praise our great King with song. In grace he summons us; by grace he hears our cry; with grace he greets us. Grace transforms our hearts to love and opens our mouths to sing.
While we do not have a book of psalms/songs in the New Testament as we do in the Old, singing is no less prevalent in New Covenant worship. In Colossians 3:16 Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Paul exhorts us to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. The word of Christ—who he is and what he has done—is to dwell in us richly, not in small measure, but in abundance. The word of Christ is to be so much at the center of our being that out of the overflow of our heart our mouths speak, “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” One of the best ways in which we can do this is by singing: “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”
God’s people are a singing people. Perhaps you like to sing around the home, in the car, or maybe even in the shower, but the place where we ought to abound in singing is in corporate worship. There we teach others by song, and we admonish each other by song. Calvin called the book of psalms “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul,” stating that there is not a single emotion known to mankind that is not given expression in the psalms. Singing in corporate worship—and especially the singing of the psalms—has a way of ministering to us, lifting our spirits no matter how down they may be.
We are to sing psalms, but not exclusively, for the psalms were all written before Christ came. We live after Christ came, and our songs should more fully reflect the reality of his coming. Therefore, Paul adds to psalms “hymns and spiritual songs.” Nothing is the same since Jesus came, not even our singing. In the Old Testament new songs were sung in response to God’s great acts of deliverance. In Jesus, we have God’s great act of deliverance, and therefore we sing in response with the Spirit moving our hearts to focus upon Christ and his work.
We must not miss the manner in which we are called to sing: “with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Let our hearts be so filled with the grace of God, with the favor of God, with the goodness of God, with the love of God, that we cannot help but sing with thankfulness to him. And notice that: our singing is to him! There is a horizontal dimension to our singing—we teach and admonish one another in song—but ultimately our focus is vertical—we sing to God. It doesn’t matter how well you sing, or what others may think of your abilities (or lack thereof!), or who is standing by you. In a very real sense, the one standing next to you in corporate worship is your Savior. In Hebrews 2:12 Jesus says, “In the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Ed Clowney, a seminary professor at Westminster Seminary California, prior to his death, was fond of saying that when we sing in church is it is none other than Jesus who shares the hymnal with us! If that doesn’t lead you to burst forth in singing, there is nothing that will.
Let us therefore “come into his presence with singing!”
Rev. Brian Vos