He hung alone. Well, not completely alone. There were the thieves – one a new friend, one a scoffer. There were the three Mary’s, his own mother among them. There were the soldiers, doctors of pain and humiliation. And there was the crowd, wagging their heads and hurling abuse. Although Jesus was not completely alone, he was. He was left desolate by the One whose presence truly mattered. God’s Son lifts a bitter dirge of forsakenness to a Father who promised he would never abandon his own. He who knew the Father’s voice from eternity and was the author of sound for all creation heard nothing but silence. God seemed for an instant to be an atheist. Jesus, feeling the presence of the Father being withdrawn from him, quotes one of the laments David gave to Israel in Psalm 22. To know the God who is, is to look to him even when he won’t make eye contact. To know the God who keeps covenant is to sing to him, even, perhaps especially, when you fear he may not be listening.
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, hymn by Isaac Watts (1707):
When I survey the wondrous cross On which the prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast Save in the death of Christ, my God; All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
I recently read Reggie Kidd’s With One Voice. So much good stuff in it about Christ as our singing Savior – our Chief Liturgist. As we sing our songs of corporate praise and adoration here on the earth, we’re merely echoing and pointing to the greater song that Christ is already singing to the Father as He leads all the saints in song.
The challenging stuff is about the different voices of Christ and His body (Bach, Bubba, and the Blues Brothers). Congregations develop their own nuances and styles of corporate worship appropriate to the people they’re made up of and the surrounding culture. That’s the part of Christology we call “incarnational.”
“But we say something profound about the gospel itself when we stay a family and refuse to allow ourselves to become insular, a closed-in group. By God’s grace, we can nurture the good we’ve inherited from our family tree, further its contribution to the larger body of Christ, and at the same time appreciate – and perhaps learn from – folks who sing Christ’s song differently.” (p. 156-157)
Keeping a congregation opened-out to the variation of Christ’s song is tough. It’s too easy to just go to the top 25 songs from CCLI and create a set list every week. It’s too easy to just stick with what the denomination prints. It’s too easy to just keep doing what the Pastor or Worship Leader likes and prefers.
I think in most cases, a pleasing variety of Christ’s songs are present in any given congregation. Just from the people that are already there, the music of their hearts and backgrounds. The tough work is mining it. It means building relationships and learning about people. “What does it sound like for your heart to be engaged by God in worship?” That should be a frequent question from servant-leaders.
And then comes the skill of creating a collage representative of what God has already knit together in the congregation. And on top of that, the task of patiently explaining and teaching everyone that “It’s OK if you didn’t like, or get, or enjoy the musical offering/palette today. Rest assured that it was beneficial to someone else in this Body. And rest assured that it’s not about you.”