We have a time of confession every week, which might seem odd to those whose entire experience of the church is limited either wholly to Roman Catholicism or to your average non-denom. We include it as part of our liturgy because we see it in Scripture, particularly in the way our liturgy is built around Isaiah 6.
After seeing the holiness of God, Isaiah is undone and confesses that he is a man of unclean lips. We do this in our worship every week after we have been called to worship and had a time singing songs of adoration.
It is an unavoidable truth that when we behold a holy God we become so very aware of our uncleanness. It’s there at the beginning in the garden when Adam and Eve hid from God. And it is there today, when we look to God and then look down and see the leprosy that seems to always be there no matter how hard we try to clean it off.
So the time of confession is not only for the unsaved sinner, it is for the saved sinner. Through confession we remember that we are needy creatures but that Jesus is a great Savior. Which leads me to the song we are singing as a part of our time of confession.
We don’t always sing during confession, but it feels appropriate to as we center around the communion table and what the elements mean. And the gospel feast preaches to us all that Christ’s body was broken and His blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins to the glory of the Father. And so we will be singing Come Ye Sinners because that is our message every week. Sinner, come and repent and believe. Jesus is able and willing to save.
It is in this moment that we feel the weight of our sin while also knowing that the weight of that sin has been removed from our shoulders and was placed on Christ as He bore the cross. It’s through confession and heading the call to come that we experience the gospel in our worship gatherings. It is here that we are reminded that we can confess without fear of damnation because Christ bore the Father’s wrath in our place. That which was rightfully ours was given to Him and in return we receive pardon and righteousness in the Father’s eyes. We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to live lives that are empowered by God Himself. To live in such a way that we are made increasingly like our Mediator, that we are made to grow in holiness and to better reflect our Father.
All of this we experience here, as we prepare to walk down the aisle toward the table to receive the elements. As we stop looking at our sin and instead look to the God Who has forgiven us.
Like many churches, we begin each worship time with a call to worship, usually something from the Psalms like this week. In this case, it is a couple of sections from Psalm 104. Beginning in this way gives us a moment to focus our attention to the task at hand, namely the worship and adoration of our God.
This Psalm describes the greatness of God in His work of creating and upholding the universe. Whenever we open with a Psalm like that, I try to find some way for us to sing I Sing The Mighty Power of God. It too is a hymn about the works of the Lord.
As it moves and progresses through its verses, we end up in the very place where we will be at the very end. All bowing before our God and singing praises to Him.
It’s a bit of an oddball for us to begin with, though, as the arrangement that we use is quite slow. Most churches, ours included, begin with something anthemic. But this week, as we are focusing on the communion table, I wanted our musical worship time to be more dynamic. Having the sermon and the songs focusing on one element of our liturgy can lead to an almost monotonous experience. Changing up the way we arrange those songs, though, can give the illusion of movement even though we are going through the same liturgical order we follow every week.
When I was first learning how to lead worship, there was nearly no thought put into this process and how the church would actually be led. Charismatic churches tend to be all about one specific thing and that isn’t necessarily making sure that the worship gathering is rooted in the Word.
Now, for me, this is an exciting challenge every time I prepare the liturgy. Having this framework in place allows me to work through it devotionally, ensuring that the songs that are chosen are appropriate for their place in the gathering and ensuring that we are being pushed toward our eventual departure from the building and out into the mission field that we call the work week.
This coming Sunday at Redeemer the sermon is titled A Theology of Wine and a feature that I want to add to this blog is a way to get us ready for the coming time of worship.
Because this sermon is more topical than normal for us, the songs are also topical, though they still fit within the liturgy that we use.
In the church, we tend to associate wine with the Lord’s Supper and are reminded of the blood that was shed for the cleansing of our sins. There aren’t many songs that are focused on wine, but we have many on blood (and they all seem to be written by Isaac Watts) so the songs this week are meant to lead us to the table where we receive the elements of communion.
I have always loved the song When I Survey The Wondrous Cross but I haven’t always loved the long, slow, somber arrangement of it. I mean, I get it. The lyrics of it are meant to be contemplated as it is a song that describes contemplation as a form of worship. But it is also a song describing Christ’s victory of sin on our behalf and that is something for which we can rejoice.
So we are introducing Ghost Ship’s arrangement of this hymn along with the chorus and bridge that they added. I know that there are other arrangements and we’ve used them in the past, but I especially appreciate Cam Huxford’s additions that focus on the blood itself and what it means.