by Lori Elliott Elbert
Septembert 24, 2007
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a worship service at my church and I was reminded of why the music of the church has had such a profound impact on my life and faith. Our pastor and minister of music had chosen the hymn The Church's One Foundation as the opening hymn for the day. I grew up singing this hymn and I admit it didn't make much sense to me as a child. Never-the-less, it was ingrained in my memory. As we lifted up our voices to this familiar hymn I was struck by the deep meaning and theological thought hidden in these familiar verses.
I thought about how I am a new creation washed and reborn in the waters of baptism and renewed by the reading and preaching of God's Word. I thought about the awesome sacrifice and love of God who died to reconcile myself and the rest of the Church to himself. I wondered at the multitude of peoples who were gathering on that Sunday to worship God with me - some sitting next to me in the pew, some half way around the world meeting in secret. I remembered that we do indeed share one Lord, one faith, one birth. I was saddened by the truth that the Church is divided, harassed and spends too much of its time and energy fighting amongst ourselves instead of building the Kingdom of God. I was caught up in the vision of the day when Christ's peace will indeed reign in this world and I long for the consummation of that day. And I remembered that I do have "mystic sweet communion" with our God and with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
This journey took all of about five minutes - the length of time it took to sing the song. But I was profoundly touched, encouraged, and more than a little tearful. It reminded me that too often I just sing without thinking about what it is I'm saying. Regardless of the service, the music style, the music leader the music of the Church teaches us about our God, His love and grace, and my place identity and duties as a Christian. So this Sunday as you come to worship, don't just sing, or mouth the words, or hum along, or stand with your arms folded not making a sound. Instead, really enter into the texts that are placed before you. Let them take root in your mind and your heart. Allow them to effect you, to teach you, and to transform you with the Truths they hold.
The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her and for her life He died.
Elect from every nation, yet one o'er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.
Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song!
'Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won,
O Happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we
Like them the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.
By Samuel J. Stone, 1866