Resurrection, Revelation, and the ‘Trajectory of Worship’

Easter is a time for the really big celebration songs—time to joyously proclaim with expectancy and with all our might, the grace, the living hope, and new life of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus—our bodily risen Savior who lives to minister and share this life with us by the Spirit and to the glory of the Father.

It’s time to sing Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, and big hymns such as Crown Him With Many Crowns and Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. At Easter time when I was a kid, the church pipe organ thundered and testified till we could feel the vibrations in our chest and through the floor and the soles of our shoes!

Presently, folks in our small congregation say one of their favorite big songs is the Revelation Song, written by Jennie Lee Riddle and made popular by Kari Jobe, pictured left. [Click here to see Kari sing the song.]

In the March 26 post we highlighted and commented on portions of an excellent article from the March 2011 edition of Christianity Today magazine, The Trajectory of Worship, by John Kossler. Worship begins with God, and specifically, we worship through Christ and by the power and work of the Spirit—joining with the bodily risen and ascended Jesus and the ‘heavenly choir’ in ongoing worship of the Father.

Riddle tells of writing the song in her ‘mommy years’—long energy depleting days of changing diapers and caring for her four children. Thinking of Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4, she longed to see beyond her own common needs, and yearned to see and hear all creation worshipping their God. She prayed for help to write a song that painted pictures of the heavenly worship that is already taking place—which we join here on earth.

She put the baby down and using four guitar chords she had just learned the day before (she’s a keyboard player), wrote a melody married to scenes of heavenly worship “clothed in rainbows of living color, flashes of lightening, rolls of thunder.” Riddle used Revelation 4:8 as the first two lines of the repeated chorus—“ Holy, Holy, Holy, Is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come,” and the praise to the King of Kings intensifies with multiple repeats of the chorus following the bridge and final verse.

Gordon D. Fee points out in Revelation: A New Covenant Commentary (Cascade Books, 2011), that John’s use of “who was, and is, and is to come”—past-present-future—is written from the perspective of our time-bound existence, whereas the order used in Rev. 1:4, “who is, and who was, and who is to come”—present-past-future—is expressed in terms of God’s own eternal existence. Fee says that in both 1:4 and 1:8 it is a deliberate play on the divine name found in Exodus 3:14, where with a play on the verb “to be” God reveals himself to Moses as the “I am who I am.”

So whether we sing “Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be,” in Heber’s traditional hymn Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty to the thunder of a church pipe organ, or use a guitar and four chords to sing “Who was and is and is to come” in Riddle’s Revelation Song, we are richly blessed to be joined through Christ and by the Spirit to the perfect offering, response and song at the Father’s throne—the heavenly worship of which our own instruments and voices are at present only a faint and fragmentary echo. Happy Easter everyone!

Comments

  1. Amen, Mike, I know I always look forward to the music of Easter. Since Easter is also a season that lasts until Pentecost we have the chance to sing a wide variety of Easter songs even if we can't fit them all into the one service on Easter Sunday. I'm glad you brought up "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." That song has some of the best theology in English language hymnody. A couple of my favorite lines are "Dying once, He all doth save" and "Soar we now where Christ has led. Following our exalted Head. Made like Him, like Him we rise. Ours the cross, the grave, the skies." The smaller of my two churches will be singing those words on Easter Sunday and several more times through the Easter season.

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