Thought a pic of what's on my desk at the moment might give a flavour of what I'm working on at the moment. Over the next few days I'll try and do different posts explaining why each book is on my desk.
I don't get the opportunity to preach that often, but did so twice on Sunday in Greenock. I based the morning preach around Psalm 137. This psalm was "made famous" by Boney M, however I used a version sung by Lori Chaffer to introduce the psalm and have embedded the video that went with it.
Rather than try to repeat my preach here I'll try and do a wee summary.
(1) Unlike the people of 137 we are not exiles we are strangers. While this difference may seem subtle I think it is profound. An exile is looks back, her heart is back in the homeland. A stranger has never know home, they are still searching and thus face forward. This orientation means that as strangers we have a 'holy dissatisfaction with this world as we never truly fit.
(2) The people of 137 missed an opportunity. They let their emotions stop them from learning to sing the Lord's song in a strange land. While our emotions need to play a part in what we sing (hence we need to sing songs of lament etc) they are not the prime reasons we sing. I gave four reasons why we sing, but I'm sure you could think of many more; (a) because God sojourns with us, (b) because God is worth it, (c) because it witnesses to God - both in respects of telling us who God is and reminding us of what he's done and in witnessing to a watching world (there is a challenge there for our song writers as may contemporary worship songs tell us next to nothing about God!) (d) because it changes the world.
I finished by reading Psalm 108:1 - 6
Can't get the video to work so you can view it HERE
One of the things I like about the church I belong to is its diversity. Over the last number of Thursday evenings there has been a contemplative prayer “class”. I only made it to one, but my wife made it to most of them and found them very helpful.
In the “class” I went to we did lectio divina – and I appreciated this scripture centred way of prayer and worship. The evening however started with a centring prayer,
“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner”.
The idea with this prayer is that it sets up an honest relationship. It reminds us who Jesus is – he is Lord – and who we are, sinners given access to him through his mercy. Taking your time with this prayer is important, repeat it over and over till perhaps all you are repeating is the name of Jesus.
This way of worshiping and praying stands in stark contrast with much of our contemporary worship.
Many of our contemporary songs stand out for the lack of the use of the name of Jesus in them. The name Jesus is predominantly replaced by the word ‘you’. I fear that in this we are losing something that is both valuable and powerful. This is amplified when the use of ‘you’ for Jesus is combined with the language of intimacy and thus you end up with a love some that well you could sing to your wife or girlfriend as easy as you could sing it to Jesus.
The link to this YouTube video (there’s no code to imbed it) is a point in case. The fact that the song mentions Jesus by name twice near the very end does not IMHO rescue it as a Christian worship song.
(PS – apologise if you like this song, but we need to get beyond the feel of the songs we use in worship and take a look at their content)