Play up Pompey .. and other things about worship

I love to sing! There is something gloriously primitive and powerful in the human voice. For most, it’s a raw, unpolished, stomach wielding expression of emotion. The trouble is, those that are outside of the church, often, sing better than we do. Think about it … The football Europa Cup Final last week saw two teams being cheered on by thousands of fans who were all … singing.

Singing well.

Singing loudly.

Singing like their team depended on their raw, unpolished, stomach wielding voices to lift them and motivate them to score a goal.

Singing as if no one else is listening (apart from their team)

Of course, the stark contrast is that for Chelsea and Arsenal fans the 22 players on the football pitch need help. Out God does not need help.

“You only sing when you’re winning”

Such is the chant from the seats in the stadium when the opposing team are losing.

Such is the fickle nature of our church worship. We sing when we “feel” like it. When we sense God working. When we are on the mountain it’s easy to sing. Not so much in the valley. Not so much when we don’t like the song because it doesn’t fit our tradition.

At yet God is wining .. all the time … so much so that God’s victory, this side of the cross, is always explained in the past tense. That means that we don’t cheer God on so as to motivate Him to try harder and score a goal.

We sing because the battle is over.

We sing because in Christ we’ve won.

We sing wherever we find ourselves, on the mountain or in the valley

“….. top of the league ….. top of the League”

“Chelsea top of the League”

“United top of the League”

“Southampton top of the League” …… (as if, but we can hope)

It is possible … probably pretty likely … that we don’t always get that into our hearts and minds. Sometimes I can believe something with my mind but not really embrace it with my heart.

So when Paul addresses the messiness of the Corinthian church he throws out this gem about the relationship between our spirit and our mind:

What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15 ESV)

Singing powerfully cements truths into our conscious life. Think about your school days … learning the alphabet song, the periodic table song etc etc. Attempts by the teacher to cement truths into you.

This means that we do have to be mindful about the sort of songs that we sing. At Calvary we take each song on its own merit – is it true and is it helpful? But it also means that a powerful way to disciple each other is to sing.

“Oh when the Saints go marching in”

If you head down to St Mary’s Stadium on any given home game you will most definitely hear this song. Like many around the country, it’s a song about community and belonging. (This particular one is borrowed from the tradition of African-American Spirituals that were around in the late 19th century. Given the historical connection that Southampton Football Club has to the church this song has worked, it’s way onto the terraces of St Mary’s Stadium). Songs like this are not unique. Each club up and down the country have their own version of songs encouraging community and belonging that are based around a common truth.

“You’ll never walk Alone” – Liverpool

“Marching on Together” – Leeds United

“United Road take me Home” – Manchester United

“We’ll keep the blue flag flying high” – Chelsea

When we think about singing in church we actually see a very similar scene. The church is a community that has been formed in response to the gospel. Singing together is a way that we rehearse the great truths of God’s grace that have been extended to us. Singing like this forges devotion and moves us from understanding gospel truth to living a gospel response.

The gospel should make us want to sing but not perform

Worship in wonder but not put on a show.

Singing together brings us closer together.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” (Romans 15:5-10 ESV)

“We are the Champions”

Originally a 1977 song by the rock band Queen it’s found its way onto the football terraces and is sung by fans around the country when they win a game or trophy. It’s sung to remind each other (and the opposition) just in fact who has won.

I find this fascinating because if we just face the facts it’s clear about who the victors are – we have the score sheet to prove it. And yet, there seems to be a need to sing about it. To make a proclamation that it is indeed true. To perhaps … even … dare I say … mock the opposition. To declare again and again, over and over – so that you NEVER forget – “we are the champions”.

And that’s the problem isn’t it? I’m forgetful. Your problem is, you are too. I need you to sing loudly beside me this Sunday because I’m prone to forget the glorious realities of grace and salvation. I need to know that it works for people like me. I need to see losers and strugglers, who can’t sing in tune or hit those high notes, reminding me that Christ is sufficient for my messy life.

This is why the Psalmist writes: “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Psalms 22:22 ESV)

“We’re going up”

Singing is a brief taste of heaven.

Praise is faith lived out through voices.

Our ragged choir of losers is a grad display of the power of the gospel.

But the story hasn’t ended. It’s really only just begun. Our singing together is an affirmation that soon this life will be done and even though the road can sometimes be incredibly hard, we’re on our way to the top of the league.

We’re going up

Singing helps me to lift my gaze to my home.

To thrones above.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

So … join me in singingly loudly this Sunday.

I can’t wait to hear your voice.

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