Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Music plays a significant role in rallying people to any number of causes, unifying hearts and minds and eliciting a response to those causes’ needs. Incorporated into worship, it facilitates our acknowledgement of God as we praise him for who he is and what he does.
It has at times become a point of contention as well; questions of style, appropriateness for church and the wisdom of catering to young or old in regard to preference being core issues for many today. Some address this “problem” by offering separate services, a traditional one targeting those who prefer less “energetic” music and a contemporary one for those more willing to “rock out.”
My issue with that solution is the artificial division we create in our congregations. Designed to be separate but equal, they often aren’t, leaving people on both sides of the debate feeling left out, secluded and patronized. That flies in the face of the early church’s example of vibrant inclusion, being multi-generational, diverse in experience, united in the achievement of a common goal. Which is a living testament to Paul’s ideal of, “Submit(ing)to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21 The elderly setting examples of fruit-bearing faith, enduring love, self-effacing respect and self-control; occasionally serving as a brake to the unfettered enthusiasm of youth. (That alone being a source of tension.) Younger eyes and minds leading us to look outside the box, imagining new ways to “Do church” while maintaining sound doctrine ( Titus 2:1-8); bringing energy and excitement to cross-generational experiences, which are crucial in erecting and maintaining a healthy, unified church capable of genuine ministry.
The earliest church followed the pattern of worship practiced by their Jewish brethren before developing new modes of expression over time. The primary focus was anchored in Ps. 150, “Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with … the trumpet… the harp and lyre… the tambourine and flute… with the clash of cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
David set the standard for worship and thankfulness in praise of God when he exclaimed, “The Lord is my rock… my fortress… my deliverer… in whom I take refuge… my shield … my salvation… my stronghold… my Savior.” 2 Samuel 22:2,3 While confessing, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness… power… glory… majesty and splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 Conspicuous in all of this is the preeminence of God. Many problems being solved when we realize worship is not about us!
Psalm – the Old Testament’s “hymn book” – proves itself timeless and timely with such exclamations as, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:1 Which speaks to David’s commitment to, “…praise you, O Lord, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name,…” Psalm 9:1,2Encouraging us to live our daily lives as a form of praise, “…extol(ing) the Lord at all times, his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord;… Glorify the Lord with me, let us exalt his name together.” Psalm 34:1-3
Praise permeated Israel’s history, Isaiah “singing” in times of distress, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid The Lord… is my strength and my song,… Shout aloud and sing for joy,…” Is. 12:2 & 6 Encouraging all creation to, “Sing for joy, O heavens… Shout aloud, O earth… Burst into song, you mountains, you forests… for the Lord has redeemed (his wayward people.)” Is. 44:23 (See also Psalm 19:1-4 & Romans 1:19 & 20)
This outpouring of praise was not confined to the Old Testament, scripture noting the common thread from Old and New when the first Lord’s Supper/Passover commemoration was begun by the singing of a “hymn.” ( Matthew 26:30 & Mark 14:26) This immediately preceded Jesus and his disciples trip to Gethsemane – and Golgotha – their fellowship in worship throughout the evening reaffirming Jesus’ resolve to be and do what he must; even in the most difficult of situations. (A trait later developed in his disciples.) A genuine, worshipful heart praising God in spite of – at times because of – the ministry opportunities inherent in trying circumstances.
Worhip is not a matter of casual observation. It is not meant as entertainment, although it can bring us joy as we empty ourselves and focus on God. Worship can entail expressions of need and requests for relief, but praise emanates from gratitude directed to God accompanied by a Spirit-led resolve to remain true to his call.
Paul and Silas are prime examples of this Christian characteristic. Imprisoned on trumped-up charges and unaware what the next day might bring, they never-the-less were, “…praying and singing hymns to God,…” Acts 16:25 Modeling Paul’s advice for us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always… Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:4 & 6
“Be very careful, then, how you live… making the most of every opportunity,…” Achieved in part by, “Speak(ing) to one another with Psalm, hymns and spiritual songs.” Ephesians 5:15,16 & 19 Worship becoming an integral part of how we communicate – or speak into – the lives of those around us.
A blended service, designed to minister to the greatest number of people, would seem to be the answer to me. Accomplished by, “Let(ting) the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:15,16
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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