It is my great joy to welcome the Rev. Ray David Glenn to be with us at the Cathedral this coming weekend. He is a dear friend and brother in Christ. You’ll be glad to know that he is also a very gifted preacher! By way of introduction, here is a blog post he recently wrote about worship and the music therein. I found it very helpful, and trust that you will too. Peet+
By The Rev. Ray David Glenn
Any blog post on worship music immediately finds itself either fighting in the line of contentious fire or drowning in the sea of banality. My goal is not to write anything profound or contentious. I only hope to share a few thoughts.
What makes a good worship song?
Worship songs, be they 100 year-old hymns or modern choruses, are either objective or subjective. I mean that they either objectively describe divine attributes and majesty, or they subjectively describe our human response. Good worship songs will always contain both. When God’s people gather they do best to sing the attributes, character, majesty and glory of God as revealed in scripture. But objectivity alone can leave you cold. God’s people must also sing their fitting response to His attributes. Yet subjectivity alone is sappy, soppy, wet and wooly.
Let me say it another way. If all we ever sing about is how much we love our ‘buddy Jesus’ we are doing ourselves (and God) a disservice. Songs like this may elicit an emotional response, but the god we worship is our own feelings and not the God who has revealed Himself in scripture. The songs of the church which endure always glory in the character and nature of God as holy, supreme and sufficient. When we gather for worship I want to sing the glory of God and sing my intimate response.
The goal is transcendence.
My heart and affections are stirred when I sing and remember who God is, that he is the one who creates, redeems, rescues, rules, reigns and will return. I long to respond with words that express my heart-felt gratitude and love for such a strong, merciful God. When I sing both about God and to Him I transcend the mundane distractions of every day life. Can you remember a moment in a service of worship when you felt that transcendence? Have you ever felt the Lord’s presence so real and palpable that He became more real than your hydro bill?
Pick your favorite hymn or song of worship. Listen to it. Read the lyrics. See how the objective and subjective work together. Feel how they invite transcendence and awe.
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! – Psalm 96:9