September 29, 2010
Our October Hymn of the Month is one with glorious music and a text that gives the worshiper rich expressions of praise to God. Each phrase is proclaiming a Biblical truth that has significant meaning or singing a sentence prayer that is far reaching in its impact. Each time I sing Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee I am struck by yet another profound truth expressed within. Joy is in fact central evidence that we are children of God; it is the second fruit of the Spirit. Scriptures command us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV) Henry van Dyke wrote the lyrics to be sung to Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from his final symphony, Symphony No.9.
I will attempt to unpack just a few of my favorite phrases from the hymn. First of all, notice the pattern that we see in the hymn, a great reminder of two very important components of true worship. We see both proclamation of Biblical truth and prayer, dialogue with God regarding that truth. Take a look at verse 3. PROCLAMATION: Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing ever blessed. Wellspring of the joy of living. Ocean depth of happy rest. Thou our Father, Christ our brother. All who live in love are thine.
PRAYER: Teach us how to love each other. Lift us to the joy divine.
It is wonderful to consider the inference here that the greatest experience of joy is a result of loving and being loved not only by God, but also by one another. This is the big idea our worship service on Sunday. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV) The Scriptures also remind us that love is the greatest spiritual gift that God enables in the life of the believer. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV) And so I pray that final prayer with intense longing and desire. Yes, Lord, teach us!
Have you experienced this? You walk into the worship service, mind full of a lot of stuff. Stuff so BIG that as one friend explained it to me yesterday, it’s like there’s a bubble around you through which you see everything blurry, you filter everything through it and you can barely enter into worship. You feel numb to what’s going on in the worship service. It’s like the worship leader and pastor, and everyone else for that matter, are living in a different sphere. So you come in and the band is moving like a freight train at full speed. The worship leader is “happy clappy” and calling you to rejoice. How in the world can you do it authentically when you’re totally not there? Take a look at verse 1. PROCLAMATION: Joyful, joyful we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love. Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above. PRAYER: Melt the clouds of sin and sadness. Drive the dark of doubt away. Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day. It’s all in the prayer, “HELP!” And God will. “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.” (Psalms 54:4 NIV)
I’m sorry for my insensitivity to you whom I lead without giving the invitation to come honestly, to cry, to cast your cares on the Lord who cares for you, and to let him melt away the clouds of sin and sadness. Melting isn’t an immediate process is it? It’s not like we just flip the switch and put a smile on our faces and sing for joy – that is dishonest, inauthentic and isn’t worship that pleases our Father who knows our hearts. No, melting takes time and is only the process of being in the light of the Son. And eventually, joy will spring forth like the flowers opening to the sun above.
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing (sometimes chanting) bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.