We often lead services that focus on a particular part of the gospel story, but we rarely step back to see the big picture—the “metanarrative,” as it is sometimes called. A Tapestry of Grace is a hymn festival that does just that, telling the story of God’s love from the garden of Eden to the new Jerusalem.
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Christian worship praises the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but in practice we find it far easier to worship the first two persons of the Trinity than the third. This is reflected in the hymns that we sing. Songs that praise the Father or Jesus Christ far outweigh songs of praise to the Spirit. In fact, most of the time the Spirit is only praised when included as the third stanza of praise to the Trinity (“Father/Jesus/Spirit we love you”).
Forty or fifty years ago, there wasn’t much question of what you’d find when opening a hymnal: congregational songs displayed in four-part harmony. Glorious SATB! There is nothing like the sound of a congregation raising its praise in a robust balance of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Many of the best singing congregations in Reformed, Mennonite, and Lutheran traditions don’t even need the support of an organ or piano to complete their harmonies.
The book of Psalms is the prayer book of the church, the template for how we express ourselves to God in worship. Yet the modern evangelical church has used psalms in worship haphazardly. Unlike the Roman Catholic tradition, which mandates the use of certain psalms on certain days; or the historic Reformed church, which allowed no other singing but psalms; the modern church feels no obligation to include psalms in worship.
In a phone conversation with my sister, I mentioned that I had led a session at a conference called “With a Shout! What Difference Does the Ascension Make for Everyday Life?” There was a long pause on the other end of the line, followed by a bewildered “Why would you spend a whole day talking about the ascension?”
- ByMarch 5, 2005
Dwight was an elder in my church—a man I deeply respected. I was impressed with the seriousness of his faith and the way he did what he thought was right, even when it was difficult. When I realized that I could use a little wisdom about being a husband, man, and follower of Christ, I thought of Dwight. So with some nervousness I called him. “Hi, Dwight. I . . . uh . . . was thinking that . . . um . . . it would be really beneficial for me to learn about the faith from an older man. And I was wondering if . . . ah . . .