Ruth Campbell - May 13, 2018

Learning From the Early Church

When Words Are Not Enough

Worship can and should be expressed in every aspect of our lives. While songs are certainly not the most important expression of worship, they have been a feature of individual and collective worship for thousands of years. Humans seem to be hardwired to sing—allowing our hearts to express so much more than our heads alone are able to do; drawing us closer to God and to one another. This week we will look at songs of worship recorded in the Christian scriptures, and explore what they can teach us about how to worship through song in our own cultural context. The writer of the gospel of Luke includes three songs by people directly associated with the birth of Jesus: Mary, Zechariah and Simeon. Their songs celebrate God’s faithfulness in fulfilling the promises made to their ancestors, and express hope for justice for the oppressed and blessing to all nations through the arrival of the Messiah. Letters written to early church communities contain passages that appear to be quotations from hymns or poems, particularly focused on the beauty and mystery of Christ. “Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:18) express our gratitude to God, and are also used to teach and encourage followers of Jesus to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Finally, we will consider the declarations of God’s holiness, power, and justice found in the book of Revelation, and consider how the imagery used in apocalyptic literature can expand our imaginations, but may also be at times unhelpful.

Scripture References: Matthew 13:44-46

From Series: "When Words Are Not Enough"

Pliny the Younger, a Roman governor in 111-112 CE, referred to the gatherings of the early followers of Jesus in this way: “They were in the habit of meeting before dawn on a stated day and singing alternately a hymn to Christ as to a god.” Some of these first hymns—or fragments of them—appear to have survived as quotations in the Bible. Such passages are carefully structured, exhibiting rhythmical patterns, and using vocabulary different from the surrounding verses. But these hymns are much more than historical artifacts: they are windows into the worship of some of the very first followers of Jesus. Sometimes, when contemplating the mercy of God, the humility of Christ, or the power of love to defeat evil, words are not enough: Our hearts break forth into song. During this three-week series, we will use these ancient songs to offer our worship to God. Through meditation and song, we will celebrate and experience our oneness with God and with one another; surrender our whole selves to our loving creator; and recommit ourselves to living as agents of God’s love, peace and hope in our beautiful but marred world.

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