Bible reading: Exodus 14:10 – 15:6; 11; 18-21 NIV
We are in the third week of a series called “The Journey of Worship”. Through this series we are exploring – and growing in our understanding of – the elements of Christian worship – as we continue to foster vibrant and engaging worship here at Athelstone.
A quick recap from previous weeks:
Worship can be defined as the act of honouring God with a feeling of deep respect tinged with awe. At its simplest level it can be defined as worth-ship, the ascription of worth – ascribing worth to the object that has captivated our soul. We worship because we were created to worship; we are worshippers in the depths of our being. Whoever we are, whatever we believe, we all worship something – there is always something in our life to which we ascribe ultimate worth or value. It could be a relationship, an object, our God, or even ourselves, but regardless of what it is we worship it. We prioritize it and ascribe ultimate worth to it. Worship.
As Christians, when we worship, we lift our eyes off ourselves and our day to day issues, and turn our eyes to God alone.
Our worship is the only response we can give to God both because of who He is and because of what He has done.
We look to Jesus as our worship leader, the one who leads his church.
We surrender all and respond on bended knee, saying Thank You Lord. Glory. Hallelujah!
In this The Journey of Worship series we are focussing specifically on worship in the context of gathered worship – where we the congregation gather once a week
- to build up Christ’s body the church
- to be reminded of who we are and whose we are
- to pray for ourselves and for others
- to hear from God through the Word
- And to be sent into a new week, ready to serve and witness and worship in our everyday lives, whatever they might look like.
Last week we looked at the Call to Worship right at the start of the service, when the leader greets the people in God’s name, and calls us to worship. We were reminded that in our worship, it is God who has the first word – it is God who is calling us to worship. God makes the first move – who initiates -who calls.. and it us – and all of creation – who respond. We respond with our thanks and praise – our Adoration – and that is our focus this morning.
Play video: 03 Adoration (6:45)
Malcolm ends by saying, “Now that’s something to sing about!”
Something to sing about…!
The Israelites certainly had something to sing about, didn’t they? That epic passage from Exodus is one of many stories told over and over again so that God’s people will remember how God saves, God keeps his promises and rescues his people – even when his people are in doubt that God can help! In what seems like an impossible situation, with the Egyptian army hot on the Israelite’s heels, God made a way where there wasn’t a way.
There has been great debate amongst biblical scholars about how literally to take the text: when exactly did it happen? Which sea? How many people?
The point for us is, that from generation to generation, God’s people have told and retold their stories of faith – stories that encourage them, that remind them of God’s faithfulness – stories that connect with their own stories and encourage them in the good times and the challenging times.
God’s people see themselves as part of God’s big story – his meta narrative. When we look back at those earlier recorded stories, we are encouraged in our story.
At the end of this particular part of the story, Moses and Miriam led the people in worship. Reminding them that it was God who rescued, God who made them strong, God who defended them all.
How often do we cry out to God to rescue us, to help us through a situation, to heal us, to set us free?
And when we get through the situation, how often do we remember to give thanks to God and praise his name?
In our private worship and in our gathered worship, it is good, and it is right to give God the glory, the thanks and the praise for what God has done for each of us – individually and as Christ’s body, the church.
When we sing – like Moses and Miriam, not only are we giving thanks to God, but we are rehearsing the words that our faith is built on, reminding ourselves and each other that we have a good, faithful, amazing, majestic God.
Choosing songs of adoration for a community of people is no easy task. Each of us have personal choices in music style, the way the words are put together, whether they tell a story, or simply repeat phrases from the Psalms.
Worship leaders are challenged with the task of finding songs that most will be able to identify with – that most will be able to sing. Both because the people agree with the words (the theology), can catch on to the melody and the song is not too high or low. It is no easy task!
As worshippers it is good for us to take in to consideration the preparation and prayer that has gone in to the song choices and trust our leaders. It is good for us to give the songs a go, and look for the words of adoration and blessing, remembering that we are here to give God the glory, and in so doing, we lift ourselves up above our everyday worries. Sunday worship isn’t a time for us to be entertained. It’s a time to worship God together. To lift up his name, a time to put aside personal preferences and enter into the throne room of grace.
During the week, I ran a survey. Through the medium of Facebook, I asked this question:
What songs or hymns help you remember what God has done for you, and encourage you in your faith? in other words, what are your favourite songs to sing in gathered worship? and if you’re willing to share… why?
I had over 40 responses. Those who responded came from rural and suburban Adelaide, Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, Northern Territory, the United States and Ireland. They include ministers, our Moderator, worship leaders, singers, ordinary church going folk who enjoy worshipping through song. They age in range from young adults through to retired folk.
Here are just some of the responses..
- Be Unto Your Name
- kneels at the feet of his friends
- Amazing Grace
- What a beautiful name it is
- Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest
- Even when it hurts
- Oh Holy Night – Pentatonix
- I can only imagine – by Mercy me
- The Heart Of Worship – Michael W Smith version
- Have faith in God
- My Lighthouse – by Rend Collective
- Prayer of St Francis – (calypso jazz samba feel)
- Be Thou My Vision
- Praise my soul the King of heaven
- How Great Thou Art
– a wonderful hymn!
– another said: takes me to another place every time I sing it.
– and another: it is a beautiful hymn
- For everyone born this one always makes me emotional for how life ‘could’ be.A: Christ be our light (Farrell)continues to speak to me & those with whom I worship. “Let us be bread broken for others…”
- By Faith. by Getty and Townend.
Fantastic reminder of the story of salvation and faith that encompasses all the saints who have gone before me.
- The Potters Hand because it reminds me that God moulded me, filled me with the Spirit and uses me where he needs me
- The Creed good to state what you believe !
- I am carried.. it is so true!!!Another said: That is one which sustained me after we lost a family member
- Ten Thousand Reasons
What’s not to like? Good praise song at beginning of worship that draws people in.
Another said: wonderful worship song !
And another: just a great song of praise
- In Christ Alone So triumphant. It’s a 101 in theology. The truth of our hope and assurance in Christ, who we are and what He has done and what that means for us. While it acknowledges our sinfulness, it doesn’t leave us there. Both for how we are to live now, in the freedom of redemption, and what our salvation means for eternity. .. it’s like preaching my theology to myself as I sing it!
- It is Well – Bethel music version.I love this because of the story behind the original version (It is Well with my Soul). I love this song because it reminds me that each day and each moment, good or bad is a choice to allow God to work with you.
- Take this moment (John Bell)Beautiful melody, Easy to sing words, It is an offering of self to God, the God of now, and it acknowledges that God meets and accepts us in our strengths and weaknesses. And it is easy to play on guitar or piano.
- For you deep stillness I love the Aussie images and the soothing mood
- Our God by Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin.I like how triumphantly this song declares that God is greater, stronger and higher than anyone or anything. I was at a conference where Matt Redman was leading worship, and he lead this song. Matt mentioned that when we’re singing to God we’re not just worshipping, we’re also preaching to ourselves, reminding ourselves of what God has done and what we know to be true. In any case, songs like “Our God” do that for me – they remind me of what God has done and what He can do.
- Magnificent by Matt Redman. I’ll never cease to be amazed that the God who created the universe is with here with us. It reminds me of Psalm 8 too.
- Come As You Are Powerful but spoken so gently!
- No longer Slaves – Bethel Because it reminds me who I am in Christ.
- Above All “Like a rose trampled on the ground, you took the fall and thought of me,”
- Speak O Lord (Getty/? Townend)… great leadin to prayer/scriptures
- Love divine, all loves excelling Finish then Thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be. Let us see Thy great salvation perfectly restored in Thee. Changed from glory into glory, till in heav’n we take our place, till we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.
- Through it all by Hillsong. I sang myself to sleep with this song during my rehab at Hampstead after the (car) accident because I couldn’t remember much else.
- O breath of love come breathe within us Renewing thought and will and heart Come love of Christ afresh to win us Revive your church in every part.’ Tis 409 v3
- Fill me with gladness from above Hold me by strength divine And let the glow of your great love through my whole being shine.’ Tis 575 I often use it with ‘us’ and ‘our’ as a doxology as part of the sending out. I love singing those hymns and many many others as reminders, uplifters, encouragers, teaching texts both for me personally and the congregation together.
- I the Lord of Sea and Sky – always makes me emotional as it was part of our journey into Lay Ministry Teams (in a rural setting)
- Another said: ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’ because I am willing to go where God sends me.
- Now unto Him who is able to keep us from falling I would like to finish our service with this. It is a good start to a new week and reminds us that God is always there for us.
I have this lovely book called Then Sings My Soul which provides the stories about lots of classic hymns. In it I read that back in 1739, Charles Wesley wrote a hymn to celebrate the first anniversary of his conversion …
You may have heard of the quote written about the Wesley brothers, Charles and John, that when they came to faith, their hearts had been strangely warmed!
Charles was the first of the two to experience this – on Pentecost, 1738. He wrote in his journal that the Spirit of God “chased away the darkness of my unbelief.”
The hymn I mentioned was called “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion”. The first verse began, “Glory to God, and praise, and love..”
The seventh verse was inspired by something Charles had heard someone say: “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Him with them all”, so he began the verse with the words, “O for a thousand tongues to sing”
Today we usually sing just a few of the eighteen verses of the original!
I am going to hand over to Jeff and the worship team and hope that you will join in, as we praise God with the faithful of every time and place, joining with choirs of angels and the whole of creation!
We sing: “Oh for a Thousand Tongues”
This is an excerpt from a sermon preached Sunday October 15th 2017