FELLOWSHIP OF WORSHIP THROUGH SONG TUNES MY HEART TO HIS GRACE
The great Robert Robinson hymn is a prayer and asks “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” I find that the Lord answers that prayer in many ways. Sometimes it is in remembrance of a movement of the Spirit in a totally different setting that connects my heart anew to His grace. Other times it is in the beauty of the singing of the beautiful NETTLETON tune that my heart is stirred to reflect upon His grace and I sense His presence in the flood of gratitude for singing, for music, for His willingness to meet us as we worship through song. Even in moments when I could not sing this favorite hymn for various reasons still my heart was stirred, I believe stirred to sing His grace, even inaudibly.
Friday morning as our Tennessee Mens Chorale gathered to begin day 2 of our retreat we were blessed by the sharing of Chris Headley of First Baptist Dandridge and moved deeply by his transparency and testimony of worship on the road marked with suffering. What a powerful reminder of our need to be aware as we lead our congregations in worship that there are those who are suffering. I have high appreciation for Chris and his ministry in his church, with his family, and among his fellow worship music leaders. I believe Chris’s testimony of God’s grace filled our hearts and we were prepared to sing of that grace. Then you guys who are members of TMC absolutely blew me away. Yes, you totally surprised me with the presentation of the painting by Kay Hinson, and the recognition of my 15 years as your director with the anthem based on the text of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing that Mary wrote for the occasion, which so beautifully captures TMC sound and sensitivity to this great text. Of course the lyric of the hymn reaches the depth of my soul as I heard you sing it to this beautiful new melody that fits your voices perfectly. When you came to the new lyric the second time it really soaked in.
May the message of your grace
Flow from our hearts into this place
Til we see you face to face
Lord, tune our hearts to sing your grace
I had no interest in analyzing anything musically in the moment. It was such a perfect expression of what I totally believe is the desire of our shared heart, that wherever and whenever we sing the message of God’s grace, the Gospel would flow from our hearts. It becomes the very desire of our hearts, and thus the prayer on our lips. We pray the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Then the second part of the new lyric hit me, “Til we see you face to face.” We have undergone so many changes in these last months and some have brought about strain on the organization, so much so that I wondered how we would go on, plus so many of you have experienced loss of position, loss of family, in some cases loss of confidence, and yet we sing on in response to the call upon our lives, and the need of the hour. It is what we are made to do “til we see Him face to face.” Now as that began to soak in I wanted to share those thoughts and at once knew I would just blubber, which I sorta did anyway, but you guys are an understanding bunch.
Here is what I simply could not begin to get out Friday that was in my heart to say. And to be honest, Chris set it up sharing openly with what he had said in his devotional. One of the richest means by which God tunes my heart to sing His grace is the depth of fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. Look, we all know there is plenty of shallow to go around in what often goes on among those who claim the faith. And that can really hurt, especially for those who risked and felt that someone took advantage. To exercise grace it is important to be forgiving, to pray for those who may struggle with shallowness and do not even know, or who need enlightenment. Serious fellowship rooted richly in Christ that prefers others above ourselves is both risky and freeing at once. As you sang Friday I was praying that some of you would find your Ebenezer soon. I was grateful that so many of you have felt the freedom to call upon me to walk into dark places by your side, even for a moment. And I was reminded how several of you have been that same strength for me in my own time of despair, as well as sharing the joys of victory. And I think that through such unconditional fellowship of grace my heart is tuned to sing His grace. Lord, help us stay in tune ‘til we see you face to face.