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A Singing And Dancing God

Sermon from October 6, 2013 at The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.

Based on Zephaniah 3:17, which reads:

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

You can watch the sermon below, or read the text/manuscript (also below).  Also, I strongly recommend you grab a copy of “The Dancing God” by C. Baxter Kruger linked at the bottom of this page.

(Note: This sermon was prepared for the 25th Anniversary of Lee Stevens as Music Director at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.  Unfortunately, I was ill that Sunday, so the message was preached the week following that day.)

 

 

A few years ago a group of junior high school students was given a test of musical terms. Here were some of their answers:

“Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel,” one young man wrote. Then he added, “I know what a sextet is but I had rather not say.”

Here’s one I like. “What’s a refrain?” “Refrain means ‘don’t do it!’ A refrain in music is the part you better not try to sing.”

“A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals.”

“Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music . . . Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died from this.”

Today, as we gather to worship God, we celebrate the gift of music – and we celebrate the gift of Lee Stevens, a musician who has taught us how to sing.

There was an article published a while back in Psychology Today, that examine those things in life that give us the greatest thrill – the greatest excitement, delight, joy, pleasure, and ecstasy.  Examining the self-reports of more than 250 people, the author of the article discovered that the top response (beating out all other activities by more than 20 points) was listening to a favorite passage of music.

Maybe that is why we are never too far away from music.  Someone wrote:  “Music is usually just the twist of the knob or a push of the button away. We listen to it, react to it, revel in it, and sing it.”

Is it any wonder that music is such an important part of the life of any congregation?  The lyrics might be found on a song sheet, in a hymnbook, or projected onto a screen.  The lyrics might be accompanied by an organ or a piano; by a praise band, or an orchestra – but when the church gathers for worship, there will always be music.   We listen to it, react to it, revel in it, and sing it.

The same can be said about God.  God loves great music.  God listens to our songs of praise, reacts to it, revels in it, and joins us in the singing.  Listen again to the verse of scripture I read a few moments ago:

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

A couple weeks ago I told you that in the Hebrew the phrase “rejoices over you” means:  “To spin around under the influence of a intense emotion.”

God in His grace, twirls and spins over us with love and tremendous joy.  We worship a dancing God, a God of celebration and joy, a God of feast and festival.  And what is God doing while He dances?  God is singing.

God takes such delight in you that He sings and dances over you with joy.  Can you imagine God dancing over us today? Can you hear God singing?

We listen to it, react to it, revel in it, and sing it.

Sometimes music brings us healing when our hearts are broken.

In the last couple of years, our congregation has buried many special people.  There have been times when our hearts have been broken.  Words, by themselves, can only do so much to bring us comfort and healing.  Words with music – songs and hymns – they make a much greater impact.

I have listen to Lee Stevens sing “The Lord’s Prayer” or “How Great Thou Art” on more than one occasion while standing near the casket of somebody we all love.  I have watched your faces, stained with tears, reveal expressions of comfort, assurance, and faith as you listened to Lee sing.

I have seen you react to music in this church.

Anne Rosenfeld has called music “the beautiful disturber” and comments, “music can move us to tears or to dance, to fight or make love. It can inspire our most exalted religious feelings and ease our anxious and lonely moments. Its pleasures are many, but it can also be alien, irksome, almost maddening.” (Psychology Today, December 1985, p. 48)

I’ve heard Lee Stevens direct choral pieces that have shaken us from a sense of complacency and inspired us to move forward when beforehand we just wanted to sit still.

I have seen you revel in music.  It’s happened on many, many occasions.  We’ve been sitting in a worship gathering, not really paying that much attention, just going through the motions – standing and sitting, bowing our heads and saying our weekly prayers…

…then the choir will sing a song of passion;

…or the worship team leads us in joyful praise;

…or a soloist like Betsy sings a song with such enthusiasm;

…or the Men’s Chorus sings a hymn of courage and faith;

…or one of our young people plays a violin, trumpet, or drums.

…or Tim plays a offertory song  that fills our heart with delight;

—-

…and in the moments that follow come the applause

…the expressions of joy on your faces,

…the shouts of “amen” or “praise God.”

In those moments we revel in the songs of the faith.  In those moment the same-old routinse and rituals of just another Sunday are transformed into an encounter with the Living God of Grace…and standing humbly in the background you will find Lee Stevens, the Music Director who leads the talent in this congregation to give rise to such celebration.

We listen to music, react to it, revel in it, and we sing it.
During Advent we anticipate the celebration of the incarnation by singing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”

At Christmas we celebrate our Messiah’s birth by singing, “Angels, We Have Heard on High!”
During Lent we remember Christ’s passion as we sing, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”
On Easter we sing, “Up From the Grace He Arose” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”
On Trinity Sunday we sing, “Praise Ye The Triune God.”
On Ascension Sunday we sing, “Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above.”
On Pentecost Sunday we sing, “Pentecostal Power.”

When we need encouragement to never give in, submit, or surrender, we sing, “Be Still, My Soul, The Lord I On Your Side.”

When we need a reminder that it is all about God’s love and not about our works or efforts, we sing “Amazing Grace.”

When all else has failed us and we need a reminder of the hope that is ours in Christ, we sing, “Victory in Jesus, My Savior Forever.”

And leading us as we sing all these hymns and more, is Lee Stevens.  And he is leading us not just by directing the song and keeping us in time.  He is leading us with his kindness, his generosity, his love and his passion, his ever-present smile and certain faith.

Music:  we listen to it, react to it, revel in it, and we sing it.

As we do, we remember that the God we worship, the God who has redeemed us and who loves us and the entire world, is a God who also loves music.  This is a God who listens with us and too us when we sing.  This is a God who reacts to and revels in our music.  This is even a God who sings along.  This God sings with us.  As the scripture says:

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

We thank Lee Stevens for his years of faithful leadership and service.  But Lee would be the first one to tell you that what he does and what we are doing is not for our glory, but for God’s.  We sing because music is a great channel for God’s grace to flow.

One of my favorite pieces of classical music is Frederick Chopin’s C Minor Prelude. Whenever I hear this piece and the words that were written for it, I am reminded of the hope that is our in Christ…the hope which we proclaim to the world, the hope that is the blessing that gives people like Lee Steven the desire to sing and get the whole world to sing with him.

They are basically simple words:

Christ be with me.

Christ within me.

Christ beside me.

Christ, too, in me.

Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ behind me.

Christ before me.

Christ in quiet.

Christ in danger.

Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.

Christ in hearts of all that love me.

Christ beneath me. Christ above me.

It is all about Christ.  It is all about Christ.

Parable of the Dancing God
by: C. Baxter Kruger
publisher: IVP Books, published: 2001-01-19
ASIN: 0877840547
EAN: 9780877840541
sales rank: 1570980
price: $408.38 (new), $96.23 (used)

In this brief and easy-to-read IVP booklet, C. Baxter Kruger vividly retells the parable of the prodigal son (including the full text of Luke 15:1-32). His fresh interpretation focuses not on the prodigal son, but on the character of the father as it is revealed through his interaction with his two very different sons. Baxter asks you to consider with which son you most identify–the dutiful elder brother or the wayward younger brother. Then he helps you explore the spiritual implications of that identification. Finally, he shows you how an examination of the father of the two sons highlights important aspects of God’s character: rejoicing, compassion and more. You’ll come away from this short but profound study with new insight into the ways God the Father is at work in your own life.

The Great Dance: The Christian Vision Revisited
by: C. Baxter Kruger
publisher: Regent College Publishing, published: 2005-06-07
ASIN: 1573833452
EAN: 9781573833455
sales rank: 299956
price: $6.99 (new), $5.14 (used)

The Great Dance is astonishing vision of human life and the mystery of its intersection with the life of the Triune God. Dr. Kruger charts a course from the Trinity to the incarnation to the union of humanity with God in Jesus Christ. In that light he offers a breathtaking interpretation of our human existence as participation in the life of the Father, Son and Spirit. He uncovers the untold dignity of our ordinary humanity–from motherhood to baseball, from relationships and music to golf, gardening and designing lakes. This is a book about who we are and why we are here and what is really happening in our lives. Step by step, Dr. Kruger walks us through the stratagems of evil and the messes we make of our lives. More important, he explains why we hurt, what we are really after and how to get there, and why faith in Jesus Christ is so critical for abundant life. The Great Dance is theology at its very best–steeped in tradition, yet unfamiliar and exciting, even revolutionary; deeply personal and honest, yet universally relevant. Written with pace and poetry and winsome grace, The Great Dance is the voice of the ancient church speaking to us across the ages through the pen of a Southerner who loves life. Baxter Kruger (PhD, Kings College, University of Aberdeen) is a theologian, writer, and fishing lure designer. A native of Prentiss, Mississippi, he has worked as a minister to college students, as a lecturer in theology, and as an associate pastor. He is an avid fisherman and golfer, loves coaching little league baseball and has designed a range of fishing lures called “Dr. K’s Klones”. He and his wife Beth have three children — Baxter, Laura and Kathryn.

 

 

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