Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Different Sort of Glorious

"There is a very important connection between the Church’s worldview and the Church’s hymns. If your  heart and mouth are filled with songs of victory, you will tend to have an eschatology of dominion; if, instead, your songs are fearful, expressing a longing for escape – or if they are weak, childish ditties – your worldview and expectations will be escapist and childish.
Historically, the basic hymnbook for the Church has been the Book of Psalms. The largest book of the Bible is the Book of Psalms, and God providentially placed it right in the middle of the Bible, so that we couldn’t miss it! Yet how many churches use the Psalms in musical worship? It is noteworthy that the Church’s abandonment of dominion eschatology coincided with the Church’s abandonment of the Psalms."

- David Chilton

Last week as we sang Psalm 63 in English metre to Thomas Tallis' familiar third mode melody, I was impressed not only by the nature of the music and its powerful words but also the nature of our assembly, gathered in a circle, singing ancient words of longing and praise for our Lord.

When I was little, Emily read a book aloud to me, parts of which I will never forget. The book is called St. Bartholomew's Eve (by G.A. Henty) and recounts the story of the French Huguenots, their mission and the persecution they endured throughout the 16th century. In the story, the hero hears singing in the woods and discovers a Huguenot church meeting. The Huguenots are singing hymns of praise to God and studying His word together at the risk of their own lives, since meeting outside of a state church was prohibited. The author paints such a vivid description of the scene I was convinced I had seen an illustration, even though, as far as I can tell no significant painting or drawing representing this aspect of history exists. The Huguenots are gathered in a circle, their faces uplifted, fearlessly singing. In the story, as was the case for most Huguenot gatherings historically, the city authorities discover their meeting and slaughtered them without respect for age or position. Only a few escape who were perhaps protected by men at arms or missed in the general uproar.

Generally, when we think of glorious music we imagine grand, state-sanctioned church productions of Handel’s Messiah or Kyrie Eleison or Saint Matthew’s Passion. Most American’s have grown accustomed to worship music productions so noisy they can’t even hear their own voice.

Perhaps we have forgotten a different sort of glorious, the kind that comes from impassioned believers producing imperfect but heartfelt music. Believers who have tasted persecution, counted the cost and embraced the trial before them, produce an entirely different sort of music. The average church attendee comparing our assembly last week to a grand church production complete with perfectly balanced sound and acoustic sensitivity would perhaps be dissatisfied.

But if you put on a different set of glasses you would see patriarchs earnestly seeking God’s truth with their families gathered around them, mothers holding babies in their arms who will change the world, sons and daughters embracing their family’s mission with joy and energy, families who love the kingdom of God, singing out of the conviction that the ability to worship God in sincerity and faithfulness to His Word is an immeasurable privilege. And it is glorious! The kind of glorious that relishes the battle and rejoices in the eternal victory of God.

O Lord, My God, Most Earnestly

Psalm 63

Thomas Tallis, 1567; alt.

Psalter, 1912
rev. Psalter Hymnal, 1987

O Lord, my God, most earnestly I seek Your holy face,
Within Your house again to see the glories of Your grace.
Apart from You I long and thirst and naught can satisfy;
I wander in a desert land where all the streams are dry.

The loving kindness of my God is more than life to me,
So I will praise You all my days and pray continually.
In You my soul is satisfied, my darkness turns to light,
and joyful meditations fill the watches of the night.

Beneath the shadow of Your wings I sing my joy and praise.
Your right hand is my strong support through troubled nights and days.
All those who seek my life will fall; my life is in Your hand.
God's king and people will rejoice; in victory they will stand.

No comments: