[This is a second edit due to some friends pointing out that I may have communicated something I didn’t intend to, mainly that I was against being relevant. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Thus … take two.]
The word “heritage’ showed up a few times in our worship services on Sunday. First it was in the lyric of our opening song of praise, Like Incense. “Your statutes are my heritage forever…,” we sang, declaring that God was our God and that we would ever praise him. Then it was part of the message from Psalm 61. “For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.” (Psalms 61:5 ESV). Guest preacher, Richard Bewes focused on our heritage as those who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (his Guarding the Heart message.)
I’ve been thinking of my heritage as we prepare to celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday this weekend. He was given the heritage of those who fear God’s name, passed it on to his daughter, Julie (my wife), and we now seek to pass it on to our children. Of all his accomplishments in life, this is his greatest, the one for which we are most grateful. Thankfully, my parents did the same for me. Our heritage of faith is that of a firm foundation, building our lives on The Rock that is higher than us. It is the security of being sheltered in the perfect love and care of our Heavenly Father, finding refuge in the shadow of his wings. It is the heritage of praising the Lord every day. (Psalm 61). Unbeknownst to me, my father-in-law, Walt attended our service on Sunday. It was good to have him there.
We closed the service with a new rendition of hymn, Facing a Task Unfinished. Over 5400 churches, in 100 countries, comprised of an estimated one million believers in 13 languages joined to sing Facing a Task Unfinished to rekindle the passion to “go and make Him known.” This was an initiative by OMF (Oversees Missionary Fellowship) in partnership with Keith and Kristyn Getty. We almost missed the blessing of partnering with the worldwide church in this expression of worship and the unity of the faith because I had decided not to do it. I debated using this hymn because, well, honestly I was afraid of not being relevant. (While I was practically thinking about the timing and fit in the worship service and the arrangement and whether it was relevant to sing a traditional hymn in a traditional way, under the surface there was a nagging concern about me not being relevant if I did it. I’m confessing here this insecurity and have asked for and received God’s forgiveness.) In retrospect, being part of the worldwide body of Christ singing a hymn together was relevant. The very heart of the hymn is about the task of inviting others to join the heritage of those who fear the Lord.
Thankfully, when Richard began to close his message Sunday morning a bit earlier than scheduled, I texted our tech crew and slipped the song back into the closing of our worship service. It was powerfully unifying, worshipful and God-honoring. People from every generation have told me how it was a meaningful highlight, worshiping with God’s people gathered around the world that morning. One woman shared how she wept as she sang the phrase, “With none to heed their crying for life, and love, and light, unnumbered souls are dying and pass into the night.” I led the hymn from the piano and the congregation heartily sang it in a hymn-like way – the way I learned to sing hymns in the Baptist Church where I was given the heritage of salvation in Christ.
I strive to keep our music program and our worship services relevant. This is after all part of Trinity’s Philosophy of Ministry*. While I prefer singing a new song, I found myself praising God for my heritage of hymn-singing in the church. I’m glad I went with my gut and added Facing a Task Unfinished back in to our services. New to me, the content of this hymn stirred my heart and I sang every phrase with deepening conviction as the morning progressed. While hymns are not the only way to worship, I was reminded that they are a valid and powerful part of our heritage of faith, our expression of praise as the people of God throughout all generations. I’m thankful to the Getty’s and OMF for using a hymn to call the worldwide church back to the purpose of worshiping God through our commitment to “go and make him known.”
*Trinity’s Philosophy of Ministry statement on our worship services reads: Worship services will purpose to unite the church in worship of our triune God. We will meet with God to give Him praise and grow as His followers who worship in spirit and in truth. We will seek to follow biblical guidelines while remaining relevant in our musical styles and use of the arts and technology, and creative in our expression of praise.