Friday, 25 July 2008

Emotionally engaged worship

I woke up on a recent Saturday with the words "It seems as if eternal days / Are far too short to sound His praise". I instantly recognised that they were lyrics from a hymn we used to sing in pre Redman / Hillsong / Kendrick days. It is called In Tenderness He Sought Me (617 in Redemption Hymnal - or for the less initiated, the red hymn book).

It may have been that a glitch in my mental software meant that I was about to uncontrollably start launching the complete contents of the aforementioned red hymn book from the archives of my soul. It turned out, however, that only a couple found their way to my mind and my lips.

It seemed a littled bit strange after all these years to find myself singing these words - and recalling certain characters from back in the day singing them. And for the rest of the day I found myself thinking about these lines and some others from the same hymn.

What really hit me was the depth of the experience of the man who wrote them. He was obviously blown away by Jesus and God's grace manifested in Jesus and made real in his own life. Think of it: when he wrote "It seems as if eternal days / Are far too short to sound His praise" he is effectively saying that eternity won't give us long enough to praise Jesus! That is simply an amazing thought. And the rest of the hymn carries the same kind of wonder and amazement.

I happened to be reading Psalm 147 that morning, and in a different yet similar way, the Psalmist is swept of His feet by the greatness and glory of God.I felt quite humbled by both the ancient scriptures and the not so ancient yet uncontemporary hymn.

My prayer was - and is - "God, I want to feel how they felt and I want my congregation to feel that way too." Before you have a panic attack, let me assure you that I am not planning to reintroduce Redemption Hymnal. I do want to rediscover, however, the theological truth and the emotional authenticity of the scripture writers and the hymn writer - and yes, of some of those people I knew who sang and meant hymns like In Tenderness He Sought Me. Let's be people who emotionally engage when we worship. Let's be people who allow the grace of God and the love of Christ to overwhelm us.


robert said...

Thanks for your reference to Spencer Walton's beautiful gospel song, "In Tenderness He Sought Me." Today is the anniversary of the man's death in 1906.

"Emotionally engaged." Good phrase. It reflects how our hymns and gospel songs should be sung (cf. Ps. 28:7). Sorry you are apologetic about reintroducing the hymnal though. There are more rich treasures there to be discovered. God bless.

James said...

Thanks for that Robert. We really are blessed with an abundance of treasure in our hymnals. God bless you. And thank you again for commenting.