Singing with joy, contrition and thankfulness
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Psalm 100.1
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5.18-21
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:6–8
Last week we talked a bit about worship in song. In considering our song as a church, one question we should ask is what is the manner of our song? Should it be always joyful? Should it be always thankful? Do we always need to be a bit more somber? Simply put, I think the answer could be that there is a time for everything. There are times when we are somber, there are times when we are joyful, and we should always be thankful.
Consider the passages listed above, though. Psalm 100 invites the whole earth to the praise of God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth, serve the Lord with gladness, come into his presence with singing. The pattern, even in the Old Testament, is that all the people joining in worship to God are to sing with joy. This is quite the assumption and invitation in the Old Testament. Why would anyone besides Israel have a habit of singing with joy to Israel’s God? Although most of the nations didn’t worship Israel’s God, they should have. Jonah invited the Ninevites to worship, and at the birth of Jesus, some of the first to come and worship the Son of God incarnate are the gentile magi. The whole earth ought to join in worship, and there ought to be an attitude of joy.
Why would worship be defined by joy? As we think of the variety of worship of various false gods, joy isn’t always a defining factor. Some worship seems to be done simply to appease gods, others seems simply quiet and submissive, while other worship is almost debaucherous. Yet worship of the true God ought to be joyful because even in the Old Testament, he is a giving God. He gives life; he gives true and real purpose; he provides and cares for his people. One of the songs in a recent Disney movie says, ‘Happiness is where you are.’ I think this (more truly) ought to describe the state of a worshiper of God. That person is happy, he is blessed, and so he or she responds in joyful worship.
But this is not the only attitude we bring to worship. As we in the church gather together in worship, we also are reminded of our human condition and our sin. In somberness, we sing and speak of our sin and the curse of death. We confess our opposition to our creator. When we confess our sin, we don’t simply do it willy nilly. It is a serious thing to oppose our holy God. Not only that, but we all come from different places in life. Some of us have just experienced the death of a loved one, others of us have encountered the curse in the form of broken relationships with friends and family. So the apostle Paul reminds us that we ought to come and empathize with our brothers and sisters in Christ and walk with them where they are at. So we weep with those who weep, but we also rejoice with those who rejoice. And like Peter says, we are sober-minded.
From wherever we come in the situation of our life, we are to be thankful. Even in the face of death we cultivate an attitude of thankfulness because of the life that has been promised to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul was in prison when he wrote Philippians, but what defines his letter is that he is thankful and teaches the Philippian church to be thankful no matter the circumstances. There are many more attitudes we could add, but these three are important in our worship: joy, contrition, and thankfulness.