Thursday, January 22, 2009

sharing a hymnal

I have been listening to some lectures online as part of a course on Christian Worship, made available for free online through Covenant Seminary. I'm not actually taking the course, mind you, just listening to it because... well, because it's cheaper and less time-consuming than actually going to seminary. I could probably write 10 posts about stuff I've been thinking about and learning as I've listened to the class but I don't have time, so here's one that stuck out in particular.

When we worship God, Jesus is worshiping with us.

In the words of Dr. Edmund Clowny, former president of Westminster Seminary, "When you are singing, you are sharing a hymnal with Jesus." I've often thought about Jesus as being present at church through those leading worship, whether in song, prayer, or preaching, directing them as they sing, pray, or preach. But to picture Jesus sitting next to me in the pew, not just receiving praise, but singing along in praise to God - this is new territory for me.

In Hebrews 2:12 the author quotes Psalm 22:22 and attributes these words to Jesus himself:

I will declare your name to my brothers,

In the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.

How would it change the way we worship God, particularly in a corporate setting (i.e. church service), if we had in our minds that Jesus was at that service with us? It's easy to say lightly, "Of course I realize that Jesus is there - it's church, after all!" But as we sit, stand, kneel, sing, recite, pray, listen, respond... do we act and think as though Jesus is doing those things alongside us? What is His posture as He prays and sings? What is His mindset as He listens to the Word preached?

The flip-side is to think about it from the point-of-view of those who are leading in worship: Are these songs and prayers to which Jesus Himself can join His voice? Is the Word being preached in such a way that it would get an "Amen" from the Word-Made-Flesh (in a Pentecostal church anyway... maybe a head nod for the Presbyterians)?

The person of Jesus Christ is present among His people as we gather to worship God together. He not only receives our praise as our Lord and Savior, He gives praise to God with us as our brother.

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