Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim

Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim

Liturgy Lesson: June 23, 2019
Call to Worship: Jer. 29:11-13; Ps. 63:1-8; Ps. 31:19
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Adoration: Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim (#165)
Call to Confession: James 4:1-10
Song of Confession: Jesus, Lamb of God (Agnus Dei)
Assurance of Pardon: from Rom. 8 and 1 Jn. 5
Hymn of Assurance: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (#457)
Catechism/Congregational Prayers
Reading of the Word: Luke 11:5-13
Doxology: #733
Sermon: Rev. Eric Irwin, Impudent Prayer
Tithes and Offerings
Supper: O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (#535); My Soul Finds Rest in God Alone
Closing Hymn: How Firm a Foundation (#94)

“When there are a number of worshipers present, there is a participation in worship which is more intense than is the individual passion of any one of them when he is by himself. It is common knowledge that a mob is more cruel than any individual in it would be by himself. Similarly, the enjoyment of an elite company of music lovers at the symphony is more intense than that of a single music lover sitting by himself listening to the same music. God has so created man that there are deeper delights and more intense inspiration in the worshiping congregation than in individual devotion.”
– Rev. Rob Rayburn, Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, WA

Today is the last day of spring. Tomorrow is the summer solstice, a word derived from the Latin solstitium, which is a combination of sol ‘sun’ and stit ‘stopped, stationary’ (from the verb sistere). Out here in the northwest, summer is a sort of seasonal sabbath where our lives intentionally mimic the slow arc of the sun across the sky, and everything seems to halt or stand still for a few months. We trade the rush for the hush, the panic for the hammock. This season of welcomed warmth and longed-for leisure is a gift to be embraced, and for many it is a crucial time to recharge and reconnect. It is ironic, therefore, that summer is the time when church attendance slacks considerably, because lazing at the beach doesn’t begin to compare to the refreshment and restoration offered to you on Sunday mornings. Our gathered worship is the true SOULstice, where the Son rises and never sets, making our sanctuary a place of eternal summer. Each week we come weary and heavy-laden, bruised and broken, to greet our Savior who comes to us, arms open wide…

“…to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:77-70)

I understand that there are summer road trips and excursions necessarily that take us away from our local church for a weekend or two. But when you are home, I encourage you to not be laissez-faire (literally meaning ‘leave alone to do’) about church attendance. Summer is not a time to forget this summons:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live!” (Is. 55:1-3)

Do you hear that? You are offered the bread of life and living water, on the house. Though it was bought at great cost, it is free to you, and these tremendous gifts are soul-satisfyingly delightful! I know the pew is not nearly as comfortable as your recliner, but sitting and scrolling alone is far less satisfying than standing and singing together. Put down that remote, or the fishing pole, or whatever, and instead come grab a bulletin and a hymnal. And don’t forget the following biblical mandate, which is impossible to obey in isolation.

“…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:19-21)

On Sunday morning, if the lake or trail or garden beckons you, hear instead the call to worship from the one true God, who should rule our hearts in every season. Come then and enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Join with us and give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good, and His love offers us the rest we so desperately seek.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

Brothers and Sisters, as far as it is within our power, let us continue to honor the discipline and delight of corporate worship this summer. Let us come to banquet hall and savor the weekly meal, instituted by God himself, that will refresh the soul more than any five-star resort. And let us not forget the layman’s term for this meal: communion! It is in sweet communion with each other and the Holy Trinity that we experience joys that earth cannot afford.

Come, for the feast is spread, hark to the call;
Come to the Living bread, offered to all.
Come to his house of wine, low on his breast recline,
All that he has is thine; come, sinner, come!

– “Come for the Feast is Spread”

We come to this banquet hall, not out of duty, but for the joy set before us. Psalm 122 opens with this: “I was glad when they said to me, “let us go to the house of the Lord”. It is a supreme delight to gather and sing the glories of Christ. May the music and poetry of our liturgy festively trumpet the true riches found in the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

“Let us thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Let us offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!”
(Ps. 107)

Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim
Text: Charles Wesley (1744)
Tune: LYONS, Unknown (attr. Haydn, 1708)

It has been said all of life is worship, that it is more than just a Sunday morning activity. That is certainly true, but there is an amplifying effect in gathered worship, and this is by God’s design. R. Kent Hughes, the pastor of college church in Wheaton, Illionois, has this to say about the weekly assembly of believers:

“Corporate worship is essential to edification. I have come to see that while all of life is worship, gathered worship with the body of Christ is at the heart of a life of worship. Corporate worship is intended by God to inform and elevate a life of worship. In this respect, I personally view how we conduct gathered worship as a matter of life and death.”

One of the intensifying and indispensable elements of our gathered worship is the singing of hymns, many of which are addressed not only to God, but to each other. Some hymns are very intentional in their fulfillment of the scriptural commandment to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16). A great example of this is our opening hymn for this week from the inimitable pen of Charles Wesley. Like so many hymns, it takes its title from the opening line, which is explicitly aimed at the person next to you in the pew.

You servants of God, your Master proclaim,
and publish abroad his wonderful name;
the name all-victorious of Jesus extol;
his kingdom is glorious and rules over all.

These are words that only make sense when in the company of others. Each verse of this hymn includes a phrase that affirms the collective voice of the church. Note the phrases in bold:

God rules in the height, almighty to save;
though hid from our sight, his presence we have;
the great congregation his triumph shall sing,
ascribing salvation to Jesus our King.

“Salvation to God, who sits on the throne!”
let all cry aloud, and honor the Son;
the praises of Jesus the angels proclaim,
fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb.

Then let us adore and give him his right:
all glory and power, all wisdom and might,
all honor and blessing with angels above
and thanks never ceasing for infinite love.

This sort of hymn-writing is a powerful antidote to the all-consuming individualism of our day, which unfortunately sweeps into the sanctuary and encourages a ‘me and Jesus’ worship experience. Yes, the spirit calls to each of us in powerfully intimate and individual ways, but private devotion is very different than a biblical understanding of the gathered saints in worship. We are called to admonish one another in song, and in so doing we experience mutual edification. Wesley’s hymn echoes these themes, which are found in the book of Revelation. There we get a glimpse of the ultimate worship service, where John puts forth a vision of a heavenly liturgy where the lights are turned down low, eyes are closed in praise, and every saint enjoys his own private worship cubicle. Oh wait…no that’s not it. Let’s double-check the source:

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.” (Rev. 5:11)

Well, that’s not some private cubicle. That’s a circle. I imagine the grandest stadium filled with saints, creatures, and elders; every tribe and language and people and nation surrounded by throngs of angels is festal light. The song of eternal triumph abounds and rebounds in all directions in a glorious circumference of praise that surrounds the throne of God. I wonder what layer upon layer of constant “Hallelujahs” sounds like! Some day we will find out. For now, we will have to settle for singing four short verses in a semi-circle as a humble foretaste of glory.

We all have our own reasons to long for glory. Some of us are enduring great trials. We need to encourage each other. We need to sing the truth and hear the truth sung to us. It is hard to remain faithful, but it helps to remember that our life here on earth is but a short verse-long journey before being ushered into the eternal chorus. Wesley had that in mind when he wrote “Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim.” It is obvious that he knew his people would need to remind each other of the transcendent glory of God and the hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In 1744, the newly formed Methodist societies were under persecution, suspected of an attempt to overthrow the crown. To strengthen and reassure his Methodist followers, Charles Wesley anonymously published Hymns for Times of Trouble and Persecution (1744). This hymn text, originally in seventeen stanzas, was the first of the “Hymns to be Sung in a Tumult.” Wesley provided an anchor of hope for his people by writing this hymn of thankful praise to Christ for his gift of salvation and victorious reign. The genius of Wesley is that his verse was saturated with biblical allusions, images, and quotations. Wesley’s poetry was always the flower that grew from the seeds of scripture. Not surprisingly, this hymn of praise alludes frequently to specific scripture passages. These references are listed below for your further study.

Scripture References:
vs. 1 = Philippians 2:10-11; Deut. 32:3, Ps.148:13, Ps.145:11-13
vs. 3 = Rev. 5:12-14, Rev. 7:10

Text and piano accompaniment