The hymn "The Church's One Foundation" is a favorite of mine, as I'm sure it is a favorite of many of yours. The lyrics are that rare combination of being beautifully poetic, while at the same time conveying deep and profound theological truth. Not only each verse but even each phrase within the verse affirms that no matter what the Church goes through, Christ is working His purpose out in and through it. In verse one, we are reminded that Christ is the foundation of the Church because He is the one who came and bought it with His blood. In verse two, we affirm that it is God that that draws us to Himself, from all over the world, and that we are connected one to another in Christ. Verse three reminds us that although the Church may go through hard times such as oppression through schisms and heresies, God will soon rescue His Church from all that would divide it. On and on, through each verse, there is another aspect of the doctrine and history (and future) of the Church that is examined. At six verses, it's one of the longer songs in our hymnal, but oh how rich and beautiful it is.
This Sunday, Pastor John will begin a new sermon series that examines the Church. While each week may not deal with the Church explicitly or overtly, it will be the underlying theme and focus as we go through it. The new series is 1 & 2 Thessalonians: Every Grace Endued, the title for which comes from one of the verses in "The Church's One Foundation." This will be a wonderful series with plenty of practical application, as well as theological depth. Since that song is so closely tied to this new series, we will be singing it together as the Hymn of Response after the sermon, and you can probably expect to sing it a few more times over the coming weeks and months!
In light of our new sermon series, and specifically the opening passage that will be this week's sermon, I tried to hone in on hymns that speak to our role as the Church to glorify God and to spread His gospel throughout the world. For our Song of Ascent, we will be singing "Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim."From the title alone, you can probably guess that the theme of this song is our calling to exalt God through worship. It reminds us that, together, we are to ascribe glory and salvation to God, because He is the One who both rules over all creation and is the one who has redeemed us, and although He reigns on high, He still is near to we who believe. As the hymn says in the final verse, we are to worship God because it is His right as the sovereign Lord of all. And we are to do that corporately as the Church.
In keeping with the idea of offering praise to God together, we will sing Psalm 146 for our Hymn of Praise. Now, for this week's psalm, we are going to sing it to a tune that will most likely be unfamiliar to most of you. One thing I want to be more intentional (yet lovingly and patiently and reasonably strategic) about learning new hymns and psalm tunes as a church. However, don't be scared! It is a fairly easy tune to learn, and we will sing it this week, and next week, and then you will find it returning to the psalm rotation regularly enough that I suspect that it will become one of your favorites to sing before too long. In this psalm, we continue ascribing praise and glory to God for His attributes and for the marvelous things that He has done. We affirm that we will not put our trust in earthly rulers but rather in God who never changes.
For our Hymn of Rejoicing, we will sing another one that is one of my favorites, "How Deep the Father's Love for Us." Although it does not mention the church specifically, I had a very strategic and intentioned reason for choosing this hymn. One of the points in John's sermon is that the Church labors in love. Now, I don't know about you, but for me, there is a very strong temptation to be pleased with myself and my labors of love. It can become enticing to work or labor for the good feeling that we get that we have "done good." So, more for myself than for anyone else, I wanted to remind myself before I even hear the sermon the truth that we proclaim in verse 3 when we sing "I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death, and resurrection." I need that reminder! The reminder that I may do good things, but that even those good things are only by, in, and through Christ.
Incidentally, this Sunday is the first Sunday after Epiphany, and if you receive our monthly newsletter, you were able to read a brief explanation and history of this season in the liturgical year. Although I didn't think that any of the Epiphany-related songs in our hymnal would really tie into the service, I didn't want to let this Sunday go by without referencing it in some way. So the prelude will be an Epiphany hymn, and the choir will sing an Epiphany hymn for the offertory.
Sermon: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5a
Old Testament Reading: Genesis 15:1-6
New Testament Reading: Romans 5:1-5
Hymns: Song of Ascent - "Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim" (Trinity Hymnal, 165)
Hymn of Praise - Psalm 146
Hymn of Rejoicing - "How Deep the Father's Love for Us"
Hymn of Response - "The Church's One Foundation" (Trinity Hymnal, 347; verses 1, 2, & 5)
We hope that you will join us this Sunday as we begin our sermon series. May God bless you in your preparation this week to come and worship Him on the Lord's Day.
Soli Deo Gloria!