Psalm 95:1-7, 96
As we continue with our sermon series on Music and the Psalms, it seems appropriate to look at Praise Psalms in relationship to Contemporary Christian Music. You have been provided with a brief history of Contemporary Christian Music, and we are singing this style of songs today in worship. It helps to understand the history of this genre, and realize just how it began within many of our lifetimes.
How many of you here survived the 60’s? Were you part of those classified as Hippies? This countercultural movement provided the seedbed for the evolution of Contemporary Christian Music. In the wake the free-spirit movement, some realized the emptiness of a lifestyle based on drugs, free sex, and radical politics. Some hippies became ‘Jesus People.’ Songs that were birthed in this era began as love and peace songs and became love songs to God.
The turn of the decade saw the birth of the ‘Jesus Movement’, a revival of a sort within the church. With this powerful movement came the incorporation of a rock-style sound to music portraying God’s love for us. I do not believe drums and percussion instruments were as welcomed in the church as they were with this movement. I remember attending a concert at a local church and having a hard time adjusting to the style because of the overpowering use of drums – let’s just say the drummer was a bit zealous in his delivery! Over time this style has been incorporated in most Christian Churches. Take a look and listen to one of the pioneering groups of this genre – Petra. Interestingly enough, John Elefante from the group Kansas, and Lou Gramm from the group Foreigner join John Schlitt of Petra on lead vocals (play video.)
Contemporary Christian Music was purposed to be inspirational in nature, hence we can compare this genre of music with Psalms of Praise that are prevalent within the Psalms. Let’s look at Psalm 30. David presented this Psalm at the dedication of the temple – a time of great rejoicing for the people of Israel. [Read Psalm] The greatness of God transcends human understanding, yet through song and poetic prose we can perhaps value and appreciate the awe and wonder of our loving and caring God. The sheer fullness and power of Contemporary Christian Music can help us to feel the greatness of our God.
Praise Psalms offer instructions on how we can worship God. I find it interesting how many times the Psalms tell us to shout for joy, clap our hands, and make joyful noises to God. Let’s read through Psalm 47 together. [Read Psalm] I think a lot of times in worship we get a little caught up in being more reserved and quiet – there are most certainly causes for this form of worship. Perhaps there is a balance that we can experience during worship – times of praise, singing loud praises of rejoicing to God – times of quiet reflection, praying in silence – times of sharing with one another, listening as well as speaking. I encourage us to experience all of this as we come together with awe and wonder at the vastness of God’s grace for each of us.
Some interesting developments I’ve noticed concerning Contemporary Christian Music. As it initiated as part of the Jesus Movement, many of the songs are focused on the son of God. Similar to what we saw and heard with the group Petra, the focus is on salvation and following Jesus’ calling to be disciples. Lately I have noticed some modern arrangements of classic hymns as a way to bring tried-and-true lyrics into a modern age. As we noted last week, hymns are defined as the words only. The music is known as the hymn tune. Charles Wesley penned over 1,000 hymns yet he often used tunes that were popular in the local pubs and establishments of his time. It seems contemporary artists are taking a similar stance. Chris Tomlin did this with his popular song, “Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone.” [Sing excerpt]
A second observation concerns an expansion beyond focusing solely on Jesus, but to encompass God and creation. Let’s first take a look at Psalm 95 – we joined in song with verses 6 and 7 just a little while ago. [Read verses 1-7.] If you continue to read this Psalm you will notice it shifts a bit from a Psalm of Praise to a plea for repentance. The Psalms will often have this type of twist in them and we will explore this more fully next week when we look at Psalms of lament. But this all-encompassing nature of worshipping God and creation has become rooted with the more modern artists of Contemporary Christian Music such as a group called Mercy Me and their song, “All of Creation.” Take a look and listen [play video.] Many of the Psalms from 100 on up are Psalms of Praise to God for God’s wonderful works and blessings. I encourage you to read through some of these Psalms this week, and thing about the greatness of God. I was reminded that because of the contentious nature of this year’s presidential election, regardless of who wins, many will be disappointed in the outcome. I have seen posts predicting the end of life as we know it if a certain candidate does or does not become president. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that God is greater than all of this. God is greater than our problems of the day. God is greater than our conflicts and our differences. God is greater than our worries or concerns for the future. Because of God’s great love for each of us, we can praise God even when our world seems to be coming apart before our very eyes. Because of God’s great love for each of us we can choose to serve God and serve others through our words and actions. Because of God’s great love for each of us, we can be the church both inside and outside these walls. Praise the Lord! Amen.