Psalms and Solas
Reformation Day services are often festive, rightly celebrating the recovery of central Christian truths in the Protestant Reformation: the great “solas”—by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Another great recovery in the time of the Reformation was that of congregational singing and particularly of psalm-singing. It was psalm-singing that became part of the focus of the 2012 Reformation Day service of several Christian Reformed churches in Sioux Center, Iowa.
For the song selections, the planners turned to both the traditional psalm settings and the fresh settings in Psalms for All Seasons (FaithAliveResources.org). The following paragraph in the printed worship bulletin informed the worshipers of that focus:
Psalm singing is a joy that was rediscovered at the time of the Reformation, and we are pleased to include these selections in our service tonight. All our songs are from the psalter entitled Psalms for All Seasons. This book is published by Faith Alive Christian Resources and is the result of a growing desire to see the psalms employed in public worship in both old and new ways. Soli Deo Gloria!
In the biblical book of Psalms, often called “the Christian’s songbook,” one finds a wide range of human experience in our walk with God, from sorrow, lament, self-searching, and confession to joy, praise, trust, and expectation. Of the psalms Ambrose wrote, “A psalm is the blessing of the people, the praise of God, the recommendation of the multitude, the applause of all, the speech of every man, the voice of the Church, the sonorous profession of faith, devotion full of authority, the joy of liberty, the noise of good cheer, and the echo of gladness” (quoted in John D. Witvliet, The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship, Eerdmans, 2007, pp. 4-5). It is no surprise that there are psalms appropriate for every liturgical action, from the call to worship to the benediction.
The psalms chosen for this service include Psalm 84 (as a preparatory song), Psalm 150 (as a song of praise), Psalm 75 (for a song of reconciliation), Psalm 65 (for the dedication of God’s forgiven people), Psalm 43 (as a sung prayer for illumination), Psalm 46 (as the sermon text), and Psalm 134 (as response to the benediction).
Careful not to introduce too many new tunes at once, for most songs the planners of this service chose tunes they knew to be familiar to most of the worshipers. One tune new to this body of worshipers was that of Psalm 150, which has an exuberant new setting in Psalms for All Seasons. Also new was the setting of the Doxology tune: OLD HUNDREDTH in a new rhythm. (Upon review, however, the planners felt that, placed as it was at the end of the service, a less adventurous setting would have been wiser.) In the service, the singing of the new songs was assisted by the leadership of the choir.
The liturgy here also emphasizes the Reformation’s return to the confession of the Christian’s sins directly to God rather than through an intermediary; the service included confession of sin and God’s assurance of pardon.
Gathering for Worship
Song of Preparation: “Almighty Lord, How Lovely Is That Place,” based on Psalm 84 (st. 1, 3, 4, 5) PfAS 84D
Call to Worship
Leader: People of God, from whom does your help come?
People: Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm of Praise: Psalm 150 “Sing Praise to the Lord, You People of Grace,” based on Psalm 150 (st. 1 & refrain: choir; st. 2-4: all, refrain after st. 4) PfAS 150A
Psalms for all Seasons
All music in this service has been taken from the psalter Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship.
Two editions are available through Faith Alive Christian Resources (www.FaithAliveResources.org or 1-800-333-8300):
- Pew edition $32.99
- Music and Words for Print (digital edition) $249.99
An app for iPad and Android is available in partnership with GIA. Download the free “Hymnals” app and then make an in-app purchase of Psalms for All Seasons.
For more information visit PsalmsForAllSeasons.org.
Reconciling with God
Prayer of Trust to the God of Grace
Leader: Sovereign God, in your mighty acts you revealed your justice and truth. With all your saints we sing your praise, for you bring down the tyrant and raise the poor from the dust.
People: May your Son be our confidence and strength, as you judge the world in righteousness. Amen.
Psalm of Reconciliation: “O God, Your Deeds Are Unsurpassed,” based on Psalm 75:1-3 PfAS 75A
Psalm of the Evening: Psalm 65:1-5
Leader: Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,
People: O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.
Leader: When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.
People: Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.
Leader: By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
Singing the Psalm: “Every Heart Its Tribute Pays,” based on Psalm 65:1 PfAS 65E
Choral Anthem: “Let the Redeemed of the Lord Give Thanks” based on Psalm 107 (composed by John Purifoy, published by Brookfield Press [Hal Leonard])
Proclaiming the Word
Prayer for Illumination: “Send Out Your Light and Your Truth,” based on Psalm 43:1-2 PfAS 43A
Reading of Scripture: Psalm 46
Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God!
Sermon: “Reformation: Be Still and Know—I Am God”
Responding to the Word
Statement of Faith (from “Our World Belongs to God,” par. 37 and 43)
Pastor: In our world, bent under the weight of sin,
Christ gathers a new community.
Satan and his evil forces
seek whom they may confuse and swallow;
but Jesus builds his church, His Spirit guides,
and grace abounds.
People: We grieve that the church
which shares one Spirit, one faith, one hope,
and spans all time, place, race, and language
has become a broken communion in a broken world.
Pastor: When we struggle for the purity of the church
and for the righteousness God demands,
we pray for saintly courage.
When our pride or blindness blocks
the unity of God’s household,
we seek forgiveness.
People: We marvel that the Lord gathers the broken pieces
to do his work,
and that he blesses us still
with joy, new members,
and surprising evidences of unity.
We commit ourselves to seeking and expressing
the oneness of all who follow Jesus.
Receiving God’s Blessing
Doxology: “Come, All You Servants of the Lord,” based on Psalm 134:1-2 PfAS 134A
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Reformation Day Service for Canadian Churches
Once in a while Reformed Worship receives an article or resource that is really good but doesn’t fit the print issue for any number of reasons. In the past we simply passed by these types of articles but changes to our website have allowed us to change that policy. Beginning with this issue you may find us putting additional articles online as bonus material in addition to our weekly blogs available at ReformedWorship.org.
For our readers who are Canadian please note the additional resource A Reformation Day Service for Canadian Churches by Ely Boersma. You can find it on our website by searching by the title or the author’s name.
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