Soprano, alto, tenor, bass
Offer thanks to the God of Grace
New hymns, old hymns, anthems raise
Gospel songs and ancient lays –
Sing a sacrifice of praise.
Organs, praise bands, harmonise;
Fanfares echo to the skies!
Powers of darkness: feel despair,
Recoil as worship fills the air! –
Aware that Heaven’s victorious King
Inhabits the very words we sing.
So saints on earth lift up your voice,
Even the hills and trees rejoice!
When we moved to our current village in 2011 we were quickly persuaded to join the church praise band. I wasn’t too keen – I felt it was a job for a younger person and didn’t fancy myself as a rock dinosaur. In fact, when a member of the congregation congratulated me on my playing, I must admit to being none too gracious, expressing the view that I was past my sell-by date.
At that time, my way of starting a morning quiet time was to dive into the Psalms at random, and alight on some verses for reflection. Thus, the following morning I chanced upon the opening of Psalm 33 – “Sing joyfully to the Lord…it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him… Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” What really struck me was the phrase “play skillfully”.
I realised the congregation was still divided about modern worship. It wasn’t fair to ask a young person who only knew three chords to take responsibility. God was very clearly telling me that, at that particular juncture, I should use my skill as a classical guitarist.
Since then, I have been a willing and enthusiastic praise band member. Helping to lead worship is not only a privilege but also confers a unique perspective. You hear how a congregation is picking up on the words of a hymn, singing with understanding and meaning, following the crescendos and diminuendos of the musicians. You sense how even the sceptics are being won over by new hymnody and new musical accompaniments. A responsive congregation impels the instrumentalists and singers to give even more of themselves as a praise offering.
As a member of a praise band I have been privileged to sense those special moments when people are really offering a sacrifice of praise, really combining as a body of Christ, really giving space to the Holy Spirit, really gaining new insight into spiritual truths, really banishing darkness and really rolling out a red carpet for God.
In a very tangible way you sense God inhabiting the praise of his people, dwelling within a congregation’s songs of worship and adoration (Psalm 22:3). Let the demons shudder, indeed!
(The Songs of Praise acrostic appears on my Old Testament: History, Law and Poetry page).