[The “MWM” initials stand for “Monday Worship Music.” The series to which this one is the sequel was called “Monday Music,” and archives may be accessed here.]
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Blessed with a good worship literature diet, I sang this scores of times during my growing-up years:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our sacrifice of praise.
And I recall a clear sense of being enthused spiritually, emotionally, and musically by the leaders, including my own father, who would energize that first musical and lyrical line of the refrain, denying the congregation a certain thoughtless, lazy comma-in-fact. No, when my dad led, the result was a more properly flowing, connected congregational expression, sans breath after the word “raise”:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise This,
Our sacrifice of praise.
Those with another hymnal sang,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
(Note the removal, here, of the strange, yet biblically and theologically significant, idea of sacrifice.)
The words are from Folliot S. Pierpoint’s hymn text “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Other key thoughts include offering praise to God
- “for the beauty of each hour”
- “for the joy of human love — brother, sister, parent, child”
- “for the church that evermore lifteth holy hands above”
All those lines flow easily out of my memory … but today, no thought is more compelling and convicting than the notion of sacrifice in praise. When I was young, back in the Philadelphia tri-state area, even though I would have been even more immature in my consideration of what “this, our sacrifice of praise” might be, at least I was energized as I emphatically sang “to Thee we raise ==> THIS, our sacrifice of praise.” Yet, at best, that was a mere beginning — a beginning I’m weakly continuing 30-odd years later.
Sacrifice is related –– surely, if not entirely — to worship because of Jewish covenant, thought, and practice. The pages of the Torah often speak of the sacrifice of animals; this exceedingly odd, gruesome activity was neither odd nor gruesome in the days of Cain and Abel, Abraham, Esau & Jacob, Moses, and the rest. Sacrifice was not strange to the Hebrews of old.
I suspect that most of us are far too distant, spiritually speaking, from the idea of sacrifice in worship. Like many “types” and symbols, the animal sacrifices of Genesis, Leviticus, etc., find their fulfillment in the Messiah, and specifically in the denouement: the Son’s offering of Himself once for all. His bleeding — quite literal and gruesome — forever relegated to the past the need for animal sacrifice.
Further, there follows an important connection between Jesus’ self-sacrifice and our own. But what is this current-era sacrifice to look like? How do I live out the idea of presenting myself as a living sacrifice? Romans 12:1-2 comes after 11 chapters’ worth of rational case-making and should be read, first, in the context of that entire letter/epistle, but there is surely an application to be made in my own context, and in yours. (Note the passive voice there? Yeah, I did, too. It just came out. Before I realized it, I was typing “to be made” instead of “I must apply that to myself.” The passive voice requires less of me. Hmm.)
How do I apply “living sacrifice” Weakly (not at all weekly) and poorly. But how should I apply it? One small way, I would meekly propose, is to praise when I don’t feel like praising. Last night, with thanks to God for His moving through the hearts and voices of others, I did just a little of that less-than-motivated, yet real, worshipping and praising.
Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Heb. 13:15
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I gave this blogpost a heading/slug/title that’s probably more strange than the topic of animal sacrifice or heart sacrifice. I don’t suppose “moderate” and “sacrifice” belong in the same arena. In reality, I don’t often consider myself successful in the area of worship and praise. But in the scheme of my failings and foibles and … well, sin … a few of last night’s experiences were moderately “successful” as sacrificial enterprises of the pneuma (spirit) and sarx (body–in this case, specifically the voice).