A reading from the Psalms Psalms 95: 1-3
WHAT A MARVELOUS OPPORTUNITY WE HAVE TODAY TO CELEBRATE THE GOODNESS AND WONDER OF A RISEN SAVIOR WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD. WHAT AN AMAZING GIFT WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN TODAY TO BE ABLE TO MARVEL AT HIS WONDROUS UNIVERSE. WHAT A JOY IT IS TO BE ABLE TO FELLOWSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER AND TO SING THE GREAT HYMNS OF THE CHUCH THAT HAVE SUSTAINED US THROUGH ALL THESE YEARS, AND THAT CONTINUE TO SUSTAIN US EVEN NOW.
WE HAVE COME TODAY IN THANKSGIVING AND IN HOPE THAT THE HYMNS WE SING MIGHT COME ALIVE IN US. WE’VE COME TO SEEK GOD’S FAVOR THAT WE MIGHT BE TRANSFORMED FROM MERELY SAYING THE WORDS OF THESE ANCIENT HYMNS INTO LIVING THE WORDS INSPIRED BY GOD’S HOLY ORDINANCES. WE’VE COME TODAY AS EMPTY VESSELS LOOKING TO BE FILLED WITH GOD’S SPIRIT AND GOD’S LIGHT SO THAT WE MAY BLESS OTHERS EVEN AS WE ARE BLESSED. WE HAVE NOT COME TO BE ENTERTIANED, BUT RATHER TO WORSHIP AND TO PRAISE JESUS CHRIST WHO IS OUR SAVIOR AND WHO IS OUR REDEEMER. AMEN. AMEN.
Please join me in welcoming our guest musicians.. Carl Ratliff on saxophone,, Member and Elder Hermon Presbyterian Church; Joy Colter piano and vocals, member of Mt. Olive United Methodist Church, and a member of the Hermon Music Ministry; Iris Rose, vocals. member and Elder, First Presbyterian Church- First Presbyterian Church- Rock Hill.
When I was 3 or 4 years old, we used to sing a song entitled Jesus Loves Me This I Know.
Did y’all sing that song, too? How many of you knew what it meant? As children, we were taught songs in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, at home and even at school. But most of the time, we did not understand what the words to those songs meant. As we grew older, we began to gain some understanding of the meaning of the words to the songs we sang. But even now, as adults, if we are honest with ourselves, we very often sing songs and have no earthly idea of what we are singing. We sing from the hymnal or from a screen or from a songbook without really knowing what the words in the song proclaim, promise, denounce, celebrate, or admonish. We just sing!
For the time that is ours to share, this morning, I’d like to challenge us to look at a few of the hymns we sing with a view toward learning to live the hymns as well as sing them. You might be thinking to yourself. What is she talking about? So glad, you asked. I’d like for us to consider the topic Serving the God We Love by Living the Hymns We Sing. Serving the God We Love by Living the Hymns We Sing.
Music in worship is designed to prepare our hearts to hear and receive the word of God. Music provides a means of celebrating, contemplating, meditating, giving thanks, seeking comfort and claiming assurance of pardon. Music helps us to experience the unconditional love made available to us through the blood of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
We enter worship with certain expectations. Often, we enter worship expecting the choir or the preacher to bring us out of whatever we are experiencing and take us into some glorious place free from cares or burdens. Maybe the preacher and the choir can do that for you, but be assured that the best way to experience the joy and peace of knowing Jesus Christ is to live a life that pleases God.
The hymns we sing talk about God and His love for us. The hymns tell about the wonders of God’s grace and faithfulness. We sing about his goodness and his mercy But what does all this mean? How does it affect our lives here in Providence Presbytery? What do these ancient hymns have to do with our Presbyterian Women? Our session? Our youth? Our mission?
My friends, It is my belief that if we conduct our daily lives in a way that lines up with the words of the hymns we sing, we will be able to demonstrate a more dedicated, committed, and faithful Christian witness. Living the words of the hymns compels us to serve the God whom we love with conviction, with confidence, and with certainty. We can begin to experience the full measure of grace God has in store for us. We can begin to see humankind as neighbors rather than as foes; we can increase our appreciation for God’s universe and all that is in it for the birds of the air and the beast of the fields. Living the hymns we sing will enable us to experience God’s spirit in a new and powerful way. The hymn writer wrote:
Spirit of the Living God
What if we actually believed that God’s spirit is available to anoint us? What if each of us accepted the spirit’s beckoning and became committed disciples of Jesus Christ. What if we received God’s anointing and began new ministries in our local congregations? What kind of Presbytery would this be if we really believed that God could make us, mold us, melt us according to his will? I submit to you, my friends, that our lives would be richer and fuller if we did in fact live the hymns we sing. It is not enough to say the words of the hymns. We can begin to put the words into action. We can begin to live the hymns.
If we live out the words of this hymn and allow the Spirit of God to fall fresh on us, we are poised to see the world from a different perspective. We will be able to see that the world does not belong to us but to God.
This is My Father’s World
This is My Father’s World
O, let me ne’re forget
That though the wrongs seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet.
Imagine living in the reality that God is ruler of the world. Even though our mortal bodies and our feeble minds are often drawn toward that which is wrong, we can know with certainty that God is ruler of all. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be distracted over how to keep what is ours. What this hymn reminds us of is that nothing that we have was obtained except by the grace of God. If we are able to internalize this truth that the world belongs to God, we will see the world from a different perspective. We will be able to look at people as joint heirs in this world that belongs to God and not to us. We can then not only sing with conviction, we can also live each day demonstrating our faith that this is indeed our father’s world.
Recognizing that the world is not ours, we can begin to move into an awareness of who God is. Knowing who God is, that is accepting that God is Holy, infinite, merciful, compassionate creates in us a sense of wanting to please God. When we acknowledge with our minds and our hearts that the God we serve is beyond all human comprehension but that he accommodated our finite minds by sending His only son to atone for our sins, we can begin to live the words of the hymn,
HOLY HOLY HOLY
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
If we rise early in the morning with our minds and our hearts turned toward heaven, the way we treat our families, our friends, our neighbors, even our enemies would be different. Giving God the first moments of our day changes the way we see the world and all of the problems in it. You see, my friends, serving the God we love by living the hymns we sing does not mean that our lives will be free from trouble and disappointment. There will be trouble. There will be loss; There will be times of confusion and doubt. But the hymn writer says:
Holy, Holy, Holy
Though the darkness hide thee,
Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see
Only thou art holy, there is none beside thee,
Perfect in power, in love and purity.
We are given a picture of our Lord who is Holy despite all that surrounds us. We can live and pray in confidence because the God of our salvation is perfect in power and perfect in love. When we are uncertain about whether we can
Move to the next level of our faith, we can read the words of this hymn which confirms for us that our God is merciful and mighty. Where we are weak, God is strong. This God, this Holy God to whom we belong deserves our worship and our adoration and we express it in the hymn:
JOYFUL JOYFUL WE ADORE THEE
Is that really your life story? If someone saw you at the Food Lion or at the session meeting, would they be able to tell that you adore God?
All thy works with joy surround thee
Earth and heaven reflect thy rays
Stars and angels sing around thee
Center of unbroken praise
Field and forest, vale and mountain
Singing bird and flowing fountainCall us to rejoice in thee
The hymn writer is inspired that nature rejoices in the wonder of God. Nature calls us to rejoice in God as well. Living with the knowledge that all the earth and heaven are God’s works gives us confidence that we too are divinely made.
What paths do our lives take when we heed nature’s call to rejoice in the Lord? I believe it is hard to rejoice in the Lord and ignore the pain and suffering of our neighbors who live in poverty and in despair. My friends, I think we would find it extremely difficult to rejoice in the Lord and disparage others who may look and speak and act differently; I believe that if we imitate the stars and the angels by singing the praises of our God in all that we do, we too, would reflect the light and love of God in all that we do and say. Rejoicing in God’s bountiful goodness and mercy leads us to seek communion with others who share this joy. We seek to join hearts and hands with people in a community of faith. God has established His church..
THE CHURCH IS ONE FOUNDATION
Consider these words. “with his own blood he bought her and for her life he died. If we live our lives as though we understand that Christ gave his life for the church, for us, would that change our perspective? Christ gave his own blood for us. Every time we utter a word, every time we greet our neighbor or a stranger, every time we teach a Sunday School class.. yes, every time we sing a hymn, we should remember that the church belongs to Jesus Christ. All of us are called into discipleship to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church created by the God whom we serve affords us a living witness to God’s grace and God’s goodness. Living out this hymn creates a powerful testimony for all the world to see.
The church provides nurture, instruction, hospitality, and it gives is assurance that we are a part of a Holy and sanctified community of faith and that this Jesus has claimed us as His own.
When we sing this hymn, it ought to remind us that not all can claim to be inheritors of earthly possessions, of houses and land, of silver and gold and diamonds, and rubies. But we can all claim our inheritance as children of God. As children of a risen Savior. The woman who wrote the lyrics to this song would not have benefited from having diamonds or silver or gold. Fanny Crosby was blind, but she could see clearly that she was the beneficiary of a God whose goodness made her happy and blessed. This, she says, is my story..
This is my song.. praising my Savior, all the day long.. What is your story? What is your song? How would your life be different if the hymns we sang became the model for our behavior? the model for our mission? The model for our stewardship? The model for our preaching and teaching?
My friends, for all that we are and for all that we have, we owe it all to God
We did not create ourselves nor the earth on which we live. We did not establish the church.. we did not populate the galaxy we are recipients of a merciful. Loving, omnipotent God. We can show our gratitude to God by living the words of the hymns we sing. We can praise God in song and in life. We can show forth God’s amazing love by singing the hymns and by loving one another as God has loved us, We can live the hymns we sing by giving thanks this day and everyday. I invite you to stand and sing with our musicians a hymn of Thanksgiving. This was one of the hymns we sang in Sunday School and in elementary school. Like Jesus Loves Me This I know, I did not understand the words. But we now know that we are God’s harvest. That all the world is God’s own field that God will one day come back to gather us home
COME YE THANKFUL PEOPLE COME