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Preparing for Corporate Worship - The Wonderful Cross

Written By Ryan Egan on 02/21/2019 | Posted in Congregational LifeDaily Christian ThinkingWorship

This Sunday we conclude our series 'Speaking to the Heart' as we look at the prideful heart.

I mentioned in this week's worship notes in the bulletin that we desire a good balance of law and gospel within our services. That is, we desire that God's word would convict (reveal our sin and shortcomings) and also comfort (point us to grace and forgiveness and the Good News of the mercy of Jesus for us).

We try to do this through every element of the service but the music we sing is chosen very specifically with this purpose in mind.

The Wonderful Cross

One of the songs we'll be singing this Sunday is Chris Tomlin's update of "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," a text written by prolific hymn-writer Isaac Watts. Sometimes when choruses are added to hymns they don't necessarily enhance the original text. This one, however, I think truly does enhance it.

Watt's text focuses quite a bit on how we respond to the cross. Only verse three really gives a great picture of God's work FOR us on it:

See, from his head, his hands and feet: sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet or thorns compose so rich a crown?

The rest of the text calls the singer to some sort of action (I count my gain as loss, I pour contempt on my pride, my whole life and all is demanded of me) but not necessarily an invitation to receive God's grace.

Tomlin's chorus adds some very beautiful good news to the text:

Oh the wonderful cross! Oh the wonderful cross,
bids me come and die and find that I may live again!
Oh the wonderful cross! Oh the wonderful cross;
all who gather here, by grace draw near, and bless Your name!

It's this balance between the wonder of God's grace that causes us to live and thrive, drawing near by God's grace even after being convicted of sin that helps us get a more clear picture of what's happening in worship. That is, God's word reveals where we fall short, but it doesn't leave us there. We "come and die" only to find that we, because of God's invitation and forgiveness can now live again! God reveals Himself to us so that we can respond to Him.

Confessing Our Sin But Not Wallowing In It

It's this same concept that we see happening in the song we will sing during the confession of sin as well. Most Merciful God begins as a prayer that we recognize we are sinners but doesn't leave us there. It continues with a prayer to "restore us" and "change us" for the Lord to "lead us on." Lead us on so "that we may do justly, forever love mercy" and "together walk humbly" with our Lord. Walking humbly together is a monumental task, especially as we take a look at the pride that wells up in so many areas of our hearts! This is an important prayer to pray again and again.

These are some specific thoughts about a couple moments in the worship service but, as always, we want to be sure you treat each portion of the service as an act of worship.

Listen To And Learn Sunday's Music

As well, you can head to our music resource page to listen to and learn the music for Sunday and use the songs as a devotional resource for your family.

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Ryan serves as Director of Worship & Creative Arts at Living Word. He is a follower of Jesus, husband, father of three, worshiper and creative.

Worship: Join us at 9:00 am in person or on our LIVE STREAM.