Category Archives: Worship

Jayber Crow on Silence in Worship

Jayber on those beautiful moments of silence when the congregation stills itself before the living God:

“I liked the naturally occurring silences—the one, for instance, just before the service began and the other, the briefest imaginable, just after the last amen. Occasionally a preacher would come who had a little bias toward silence, and then my attendance would become purposeful. At a certain point in the service the preacher would ask that we ‘observe a moment of silence.’ You could hear a little rustle as the people settled down into that deliberate cessation. And then the quiet that was almost the quiet of the empty church would come over us and unite us as we were not united even in singing, and the little sounds (maybe a bird’s song) from the world outside would come in to us, and we would completely hear it.But always too soon the preacher would become abashed (after all, he was being paid to talk) and start a prayer, and the beautiful moment would end. I would think again how I would like for us all just to go there from time to time and sit in silence. Maybe I am a Quaker of sorts, but I am told that the Quakers sometimes speak at their meetings. I would have preferred no talk, no noise at all.

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Jayber Crow on Prayers and Hymns

I love this passage on the hymns of the faith. This paragraph, particularly what Jayber says about “Abide with Me,” wrenched my heart when I read it, and its hold on my mind brought me back to this book to type up these thoughts of Jayber (whose conduct, honestly, I found to be a little strange) to post them here. If you’re not blessed to know these songs, to have experienced the moving power of a congregation singing them, may this passage be a prod to that pleasure. Enjoy:

“What I liked least about the service itself was the prayers; what I liked far better was the singing. Not all of the hymns could move me. I never liked “Onward, Christian Soldiers” or “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Jesus’ military career has never compelled my belief. I liked the sound of the people singing together, whatever they sang, but some of the hymns reached into me all the way to the bone: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “Rock of Ages,” “Amazing Grace,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” I loved the different voices all singing one song, the various tones and qualities, the passing lifts of feeling, rising up and going out forever. Old Man Profet, who was a different man on Sunday, used to draw the notes at the ends of verses and refrains so he could listen to himself, and in fact it sounded pretty. And when the congregation would be singing “We shall see the King some-day (some-day),” Sam May, who often protracted Saturday night a little too far into Sunday morning, would sing, “I shall see the King some-day (Sam May).”I thought that some of the hymns bespoke the true religion of the place. The people didn’t really want to be saints of self-deprivation and hatred of the world. They knew that the world would sooner or later deprive them of all it had given them, but they still liked it. What they came together for was to acknowledge, just by coming, their losses and failures and sorrows, their need for comfort, their faith always needing to be greater, their wish (in spite of all words and acts to the contrary) to love one another and to forgive and be forgiven, their need for one another’s help and company and divine gifts, their hope (and experience) of love surpassing death, their gratitude. I loved to hear them sing “The Unclouded Day” and “Sweet By and By”:

We shall sing on that beautiful shore
The melodious songs of the blest . . .

And in times of sorrow when they sang “Abide with Me,” I could not raise my head.”

This last line about “Abide with Me” has deep resonance in the novel, for Jayber has walked through the valley of the shadow of death with people he loves, as those people lost loved ones who could never be replaced. So the line draws its beauty from the lyrics of the hymn and the pain Jayber has shared with these people. The weight of those who sing the faith bows his head in worship.

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“Merciful to Me” from Reformed Praise

I’ve noted before that I think Eric Schumacher is one of the best poets at work on the craft in this generation. He writes to help the people of God praise the name of God, celebrating God’s saving mercy in Christ by the power of the Spirit.

Eric writes of the new album from Reformed Praise, “Merciful to Me“:

“As many of you know, I collaborate in song-writing with David Ward (and others) through the ministry of Reformed Praise.

This month we released our latest album, Merciful to Me. It was co-produced by David Ward and Steve Cook (of Sovereign Grace Music). It contains the vocals of Devon Kauflin, Shannon Harris, Jake Armerding, Lucia Newell, and others, as well as a host of great instrumentalists from around the country. The 13 tracks are an eclectic mix of styles, including bluegrass, pop, classic jazz, driving rock, and orchestral arrangements.”

On the album’s webpage, you can read about the project and sample the songs, which are described as follows:

1. Merciful to Me – A guitar-driven ballad featuring ac. guitar, piano (very light), kit on brushes, some percussion, soprano sax, and fretless bass
2. There Is No Greater Portrait – A piano and orchestra driven arrangement by Bob Parsons
3. Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken – A guitar-driven ballad with kit on brushes, piano, fiddle
4. O Jesus – Energetic pop arrangement with a drum loop and tasty electric guitars
5. O God the Holy Spirit – Another piano and orchestra driven arrangement by Bob Parsons
6. So I Will Come – A guitar driven ballad featuring Shannon Harris on vocals with acoustic bass, piano, and a string trio
7. Jesus, Lover of My Soul – A Dave Matthews inspired setting with layered acoustic guitars and saxes
8. The River – A driving rock arrangement led by acoustic guitar, then handed off to an electric guitar
9. Glory Is Certain – A pseudo-Celtic flavor: live guitr, djembe, acoustic bass, and vocals with added mandolin and Irish whistle
10. There Is No Sin that I Have Done – A very sparse, guitar driven ballad with upright bass and pedal steel guitar
11. O Weary Saint – Another sparse setting, piano-driven with Irish flute and cello
12. Begone, Unbelief – A foot-stompin’ bluegrass setting with live guitar, vocal, drums, and upright bass with added dobro, mandolin, and fiddle
13. Majestic Sweetness – A classic jazz ballad arrangement inspired by Bill Evans’ work on the Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”

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Dever’s Preface to It Is Well

If you haven’t already done so, you really should check out the Preface to Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence’s book, It Is Well. Here’s a snippet that puts worship into words and describes how the cross is central, even if there isn’t a physical cross on the wall:

“This is never truer than when we sing the hymn ‘It Is Well with My Soul.’ I wish you could hear the church sing the stanze, ‘My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.’ Our voices join in ecstasy, and we stand amazed at our inclusion, stunned and relishing God’s costly, gracious mercy toward us in Christ. The truth of the Word, the cross in the Bible, explodes into glorious joy at the foundation and heart of our life together as a church. When we experience that solemn joy, that deep delight, that loud celebration together, whether we’re at the Lord’s Table or simply rejoicing after confessing our sins in prayer, the cross is seen to be the center of our church.”

Programming note: this post was prompted by the enjoyment of this song in worship this past Sunday at Kenwood. What a blessing to worship with God’s people.

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Piano Hymns

We are blessed at Kenwood Baptist Church to be led in worship by Josh Philpot, Associate Pastor extraordinaire.

You’ll love his work on the piano. He writes:

Here are twelve hymns I recorded on piano for my wife as a birthday gift in April (she really liked it!). I thought some of you may enjoy them. Many thanks to Andrew Case for the mix, and for Clifton Baptist Church for letting me use their piano!

I Will Glory in My Redeemer

In Christ Alone

Amazing Grace

Before the Throne of God Above

Come Thou Fount

Holy, Holy, Holy

How Sweet and Aweful is the Place

Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners

My Jesus, I Love Thee

The Power of the Cross

Trust and Obey

I Surrender All

I had to minimize the files, so unfortunately the quality is not the best. Also, most of these were recorded on the first take so you may here mistakes here or there (i.e. copyist errors…).

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Douglas Wilson on Worldview and Preaching

Douglas Wilson makes an offhand comment that is worth further thought regarding:

what makes up a worldview in the first place (dogma, narrative, symbol, and liturgy),

Narrative–biblical theology; Dogma–systematic theology and catechesis; Symbol–art, architecture, etc; Liturgy–the expression of dogma, narrative, and symbol in worship. More to think on here.

In the previous post, Wilson prescribes some good medicine for preachers:

Preachers need to remember that the way to the heart is through the head, but the preacher is to take that route and drive toward the heartwithout stopping. Too many turn aside at the head to eat bread and drink water, and that is why a lion kills them (1 Kings 13:9-10).

Too many preachers wrestle with a point in their messages far too long, as though they were Jacob and that particular point were the angel of the Lord — and so they cry out, “I will not let you go!” (Gen. 32:26).

Unregenerate man is a profanity. Too many evangelical ministers preach as though that condition were an inconvenience, or a mere disqualification for entry into the club. But real preaching overturns tables in the court of the Gentiles (Mark 11:17). Real preaching messes with the profanation.

God help us.

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Filed under Art, Bible and Theology, Biblical Theology, Preaching, Worship