Providence Orthodox Presbyterian Church

We stand in that stream of Christian tradition known as Reformed.

Grounded in Scripture, and tracing our roots to the Protestant Reformation, Providence Orthodox Presbyterian Church seeks to be a Church “reformed, and always reforming, according to the Word of God.”

Sing Unto the Lord

 Worship has become loud, as in ear-splitting. A recent story in the Wall Street Journal tells why people are wearing earplugs in worship. The description says it all, “Congregations crank up the music to ear-splitting volume; ‘They were going after rock concert levels,’” (January 25, 2019). Those interviewed for the story were not criticizing the music. The problem was their ears’ inability to tolerate the noise level.

It made me think of the Reformers who wrote new church music to help congregations sing praise to God. Besides Martin Luther, the Reformed, such as Martin Bucer and the brothers Thomas and Ambrosius Blarer, took a large lead in the production of collections of praises for the churches to sing. Their interest was in the congregation actually singing its praise to God instead of watching trained choirs do it for them.

Also, I recall the work of the prolific translator, Catherine Winkworth. She lived in the 19th century and translated many German chorale hymns into English—over 400 texts. Some of her work is in our hymnal, such as  Praise to the Lord, the Almighty and Now Thank We All Our God. She was also an author of many hymns. As with most translators, her versions of the hymn texts have not been appreciated by all.  Yet the chorale style she adroitly promoted enabled the church to do two things; sing together and sing beautifully. Singing is a congregational activity and it is good to offer our praise to God delightfully and as well as we can.

Another person who came to mind was John Wesley. He offered five rules for singing. Here they are:

I.         Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing.

II.       Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of it being heard, then when you sing the songs of Satan (by which I think he means crass pop songs).

III.     Sing modestly. Do not bawl, as to be heard above, or distinct from, the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

IV.    Sing in time. Whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before, not stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

V.      Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

 Good advice for an age of entertainment and ear-splitting music.

Grace and Peace

Jeffrey Wilson

We Must Change

Tomorrow we will gather to worship God with the church. It is a rather ordinary looking bunch; men, women and children, old and young, who are from different places and different cultures; a bit cosmopolitan, with those who are of Sri Lankan, African American, Chilean, Korean, Polish, and Anglo-Saxon heritages.  We do many of the same activities everyone else does in our society. An early Christian letter written by an unknown author famously describes it this way, “Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech.” In one way, we Christians are fully recognizable in our culture. Perhaps the most obvious is the English language we speak. It has the same grammar—more or less—and idioms that are generally known in the United States. A Christian may say “What’s up?” or “A day late and a dollar short” and only the most recent immigrants are perplexed. The same is true for the songs we sing in the church and the musical patterns they contain which are familiar in our western culture. Christianity can take its place in societies and cultures with relative ease.

It has been observed that Christianity is highly adaptable to the various cultures of this world. One can find Christian congregations in nearly every culture, even the ones that outlaw Christianity. The Christian faith reaches across class boundaries, political affiliations, race and education. However, that is not the end of it for the followers of Jesus Christ. We do not just ride along with the culture imitating it. There is transformation. When someone becomes a Christian they must change. Nothing will remain the same anymore. It is difficult to comprehend this when the world around us says we are fine just the way we are. This is a deceptive message because while we may agree with what the world tells us, we do want to change in some ways; like our weight, knowledge, relationships, and so on. We are not as “fine” as we think we are. In fact we have become twisted and corrupted forms of what God created us to be. Jesus Christ transforms his followers from what we were into God’s good and holy purpose for us.

How then do we explain the adaptability and the transformation of Christianity? We explain it with Jesus Christ. Scripture bears witness that he is the eternal God who became man and dwelt among us. Without changing his divinity he assumed our humanity in all its aspects; physical, spiritual, cultural and everything else. He adapted himself to our human life, but he did not do this to affirm it the way it is and allow us to remain what we have been. Christ assumed our humanity in order to transform it—everything about it. This would include the thoughts, words, deeds and desires of our own person. Jesus Christ also transforms our moral behavior, sexual desires and relationships with others. Beyond ourselves it extends to human culture like language, music, education, and politics. Christ’s transformation even extends to the church and its worship. Christ transforms Christian worship from merely adapting to the forms and content of cultures to having its own distinct character. Those who follow Jesus Christ must be changed personally, morally, culturally and religiously. After asserting the adaptability of Christians to the culture, the Letter to Diogentus continues, “Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens.”

Grace and Peace

Jeffrey Wilson

For more information about Providence Church, call (248) 547-9585.