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Making Music to the Lord: Commissioning of Worship/Music Ministry Staff - Psalm 27

This service plan focuses on the importance of the music ministry in the life of the church and the proper commissioning of those who serve in these ministries.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Music is a large part of Christian worship. From the Old Testament choirs until today, song is a vibrant means by which faith is expressed. In many congregations, the church year begins with new efforts by those who lead this part of our ministry. This service focuses on the importance of the ministry of music and the proper commissioning of those who serve.

Note: Some additional material on this subject can be found in "Congregational Song," Lesson 18 ofWorship Insights: Bible Studies for Worship Committees. In this lesson you will find perspectives on the historic song of the church, on congregational songs for today, and suggestions for developing your congregational singing.

* * * * *


Prelude: "For the Music of Creation" [see music notes]

*Song: "For the Music of Creation" SNC 37

*The Call to Worship
Clap your hands, all you people; raise a joyful shout to God.
For the Most High is awesome and is king over all the earth.
How good it is to give thanks, to sing in honor of the most high God;
to proclaim his constant love every morning and his faithfulness every night;
to make music with stringed instruments and melodies on the organ;
for the mighty deeds of the Lord make us glad;
because of what he has done we sing with joy.
Sing out your joy to your Creator, O people of God!
Praise is fitting, for our lives have been blessed by grace!
Magnify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together. (From Psalm 47:1-2; 92:1-4; 33:1; 34:3)

*Song: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" PH 482, PsH 253, RL 145, RN 57, TH 53, TWC 77, UMH 139

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, who do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Response: "I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord" PsH 169, RN 111, TWC 30


The Call to Confession

The Prayer of Confession

The Assurance of Pardon

We Affirm Our New Identity:
In our world, bent under the weight of sin,
Christ gathers a new community.
Satan and his evil forces
seek whom they may confuse and swallow;
but Jesus builds his church,
his Spirit guides, and grace abounds.
The church is the fellowship of those
who confess Jesus as Lord.
She is the Bride of Christ,
his chosen partner, loved by Jesus and loving him:
delighting in his presence,
seeking him in prayer,
silent before the mystery of his love.
The Spirit empowers each member
to take part in the ministry of all,
so that hurts are healed and all may rejoice
in the life and growth of the fellowship. ("Our World Belongs to God," arts. 37, 38, 41) [see liturgy notes]


*Song of Preparation: "Fill Thou My Life, O Lord, My God" PsH 547, RL 147, TH 589

The Prayer for Illumination

The Old Testament Reading: Psalm 27 [see liturgy notes]
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The New Testament Reading: Ephesians 5:15-21
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: Making Music to the Lord
Text: Psalm 27:6c

The Prayer of Application

[see liturgy notes]

The Children's Moment

*Our Affirmation of God's Gifts:
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;
and there are varieties of activities,
but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, NRSV)
The Spirit's gifts are here to stay in rich variety-
fitting responses to timely needs.
We thankfully see each other
as gifted members of the fellowship
which delights in the creative Spirit's work.
He gives more than enough to each believer
for God's praise and our neighbor's welfare. ("Our World Belongs to God," art.33)

Response: "Somos uno en Cristo / We Are One in Christ Jesus" SNC 179

The Introduction of the Worship/Music Staff [see liturgy notes]

The Charge from the Congregation:
We are the people of God who are called to worship him.
We must worship with young and old together, so draw us all in.
We must sing our song to the Lord, so lead us.
We must lift our hearts in prayer; provide words for us.
We must hear the Word of the Lord; speak and read it to us.
We must raise our thanks to God; enable us to do it well.
Teach us always that all glory be given to Him!

The Commissioning of the Worship/Music Staff:

We challenge you as our worship/music staff that, with God's help, you use your gifts to lead us in the holy service of worship to God. Begin all your ministry efforts with the conviction that "great is the Lord and most worthy of praise" (Psalm 48:1) and "how good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!" (Psalm 147:1) Always remember that Christ calls us to worship him "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24) and that God calls us never to "give up meeting together" (Hebrews 10:25). All your leadership efforts must be charged with the conviction that "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever." (Revelation 5:13) Care for your own spirits and hearts well so that your song comes from a heart that is walking closely with the Lord. Stir our hearts, knowing that our worship is preparation for joining the heavenly chorus. Will you now take up your tasks with such a commitment before God?

Response: Yes, we will, God helping us!

May God richly bless you as you carry out the commitments you have just made.

Our Litany of Dedication:
We gather this day as children of God who loves to hear his people sing,
We thank you God for the gift of praise.
Our Lord Jesus knew and loved the Psalms, and sang with his disciples even on the night on which he was betrayed.
We thank you God for the gift of song.
The Psalmists, the church fathers, the Reformers, and members of the church today have all given expression to their faith through Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
We thank you God for the heritage of expressing our faith in song.
We challenge you, as our music and worship staff, that with God's help, you use your gifts to lead us in the holy service of worship to God.
(By staff members only) We will take up our ministries with the conviction that "great is the Lord and most worthy of praise."
We challenge you as a congregation to use your voices to sing your faith with all your heart.
We will sing our song to God as he desires.
As we gather here each Lord's Day, may we rise above the pressures of a world that can mute our song, and find our hearts and voices lifted again to the God who deserves our praise and desires to hear us.
We pray that in our songs we may praise God for his goodness. We seek to express our faith, our fears and our needs in unified voice. May all our songs delight our Lord, give expression to our hearts, profess our faith, direct our children and youth, and draw unbelievers to the new song God has placed in our hearts. To God alone be all glory. Amen.

The Prayer of Intercession [see liturgy notes]

A Festival of Song [see music notes]
*Song: "When in Our Music God is Glorified" PH 264, PsH 512, RL 508, RN 62, TWC 403, WOV 802, TWC 402, UMH 68
Responsorial Anthem: "Sing to the Glory of God," O'Brien
*Song: "Psalm 147: Sing to God, with Joy" SNC 29
Anthem: "With Every Breath," Medema

The Offertory
The Offering of Music: "When In Our Music God Is Glorified" [see music notes]
We offer our gifts for..


*Words of Sending: Colossians 3:15-17

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Let All Creation Bless the Lord" SNC 34
or: "Sing a New Song" SNC 1, RN 21

Postlude: "Fanfare," Lemmens [see music notes]

* - You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

The Christian church and singing go hand-in-hand. Indeed, today we find group singing in few places besides the church. So, one of the goals of this service is to reinforce that the song of the church is part of its very life. The gathered congregation IS a choir, and those who lead should aim to enable the congregational choir to sing!

Psalm 27 is a well-known Psalm of David, usually known best for its opening verses. The text for this sermon, however, is found in the latter part of verse 6. David, who is experiencing fear because he is under attack from his enemies, gives testimony to his faith and lays out his strategy for coping with the difficulties he is facing. In verses 4 and 5 he explains that he goes to the house of the Lord, gazes on the beauty of the Lord and seeks safety in God's care. The result is that he need not be afraid (see v.6a). But there is a further result: when he successfully finds peace and safety, he breaks forth in song to God! (cf. verse 6b, c) From this example of David we can conclude that one of the marks of a healthy church is that it sings to God! The soul of a healthy church needs to break forth in song!

Several marks of the song of the church stand out.

  • The church sings from experience. David first seeks and finds the care of God, and "then" (note the first word of verse 6) he sings. Our song is the result of our experience of God's grace and care.
  • The church sings corporately. David went to the Tabernacle to join with others. While we enjoy singing alone (and God enjoys it too!), our song takes on new significance when it is "congregational song."
  • The church sings heavenward. David doesn't sing to others, or to himself, but to God! What a phenomenal privilege to think that God is listening while we are singing!
  • The church sings intergenerationally. Though it isn't specifically addressed in this passage, the Old Testament practice showed that Hebrew families came to the Tabernacle and Temple together. Their song surely included all voices.

Perhaps a caution is in order here. Though David speaks of "shouts of joy" and the Psalms repeatedly talk about "songs of praise," there are also different kinds of songs that the church must sing, even as there are different kinds of Psalms. True, we sing praises to God for who he is and how he has cared for us, but there are many circumstances in life that make it difficult to sing praise. Life's stresses can mute our praise, and in every group of worshipers there are a number who find it difficult to sing praise because life has been hard for them. At times we cry out our laments, our sorrow and complaints to God. Sometimes we sing our confessions and sorrow for sin. At other times we sing out our testimonies of faith and commitment. The song of the church, like the psalms, has many expressions to reflect and form the body of Christ.

As a New Testament church, our song takes on a whole new dimension because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. We are able to sing of God's perfections, but also of his mighty acts in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our song reaches its climax when we sing of our eternal hope and anticipate the return of Christ and the final consummation.

In light of all of this, those who lead in worship and music have a high privilege and awesome responsibility!

Music Notes
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude, based on the opening hymn can be found in the following resources:

NETTLETON ["For the Music of Creation"]

Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 4. Fred Bock B-G0776 [1985] (M)
Callahan, Charles. Six Meditations on American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-6140 [1992] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Groundings. Augsburg 11-11119 [2001] (E-M)
Eggert, John. Partita on Nettleton. Concordia 97-6862 [2000] (adaptable [mostly] to piano; E)
Hildebrand, Kevin. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 3. Concordia 97-7052 [2004] (E)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 6. Morningstar MSM-10-542 [2000] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 9. Concordia 97-5556 [1980] (E-M)
Martin, Gilbert. Two Preludes on American Hymn Tunes. H. W. Grey GSTC 962 [1972] (E-M)
Wood, Dale. Wood Works. SMP KK357 [1986] (E-M)
Young, Gordon. Variations on an American Hymn Tune. Fischer 9288 [1941] (M-D)

Carter, John. Folk Hymns for Piano. Hope 240 [1987] (E-M)
Carter, John. Hymns for Piano II. Hope 8197 [2003] (M)
David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (M)
Medema, Ken. Sanctuary. Genevox 4181-16 [1989] (M)

Bish, Diane. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Fred Bock BG0798 [1986] (4-5 octaves,
level 4)
McChesney, Kevin. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. (3-5 octaves) (E-M)

The Festival of Song includes two possible anthems, both of which could be adapted and learned by adult and children's choirs/teams in a pre-service rehearsal. "Sing to the Glory of God" by Francis Patrick O'Brien is scored for SATB voices, congregation, keyboard, guitar and 2 optional C instruments. This responsorial anthem is published by GIA G-3773 [1992] (E-M). "With Every Breath" by Ken Medema is scored for SATB voices and keyboard and is published by Shawnee A6792 (E-M)) If your congregation is unfamiliar with "Psalm 147: Sing to God with Joy" (SNC 29), consider having your musical groups sing the verses with the congregation joining on the refrain. Remember that your congregation remains the main choir in worship!

Musical suggestions for offertory music are as follows:

ENGELBERG ["When in Our Music God Is Glorified"]

Callahan, Charles. Voluntary on Engelberg. Morningstar MSM-10-702 [1990] (M)
Cherwien, David. (1999x) Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] ( D)
Cherwien, David. Gotta Toccata. Augsburg 11-11008 [1999] ( D)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 1. AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-757 [1994] (M)
Powell, Robert J. Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart. Augsburg 11-10478 [1994] (E-M)
Wallace, Sue Mitchell. Hymn Prisms. Hope 270 [1985] (E-M)
Wood, Dale. Preludes and Postludes, vol. 3. Augsburg 11-9320 [1974] (E)

The organ postlude "Fanfare in D" by J. Lemmens is published by Fischer P2319. It is also published in the organ method books by Clarence Dickinson and by Roger Davis.

Liturgy Notes

1. Because of the focus of this service, this liturgy should include lots of music. Since it is early in the season, it may be difficult for some musical groups to have adequately prepared anthems. It may be helpful to have some early rehearsals.

2. Our Affirmation of God's Gifts is from "Our World Belongs to God," a Contemporary Testimony that has been adopted by the synod of the Christian Reformed Church. To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

3. Psalm 27 is a very rich Psalm and the reading of it should communicate its richness. It is possible for the entire congregation to read it in unison. It can be very effective for multiple voices to read it, each taking a section. With this option, we suggest that one voice read verses 1-3, a second voice read verses 4-6, a third voice read verses 7-12, and all three together read the concluding two verses. Some careful practice, and perhaps even coaching, with help communicate these sacred words!

4. The Commissioning Service is intended to include all who contribute efforts to the musical life of the congregation. The group should, therefore, be comprehensive and (we hope) rather large. Let it include the worship planners, accompanists, instrumentalists, choirs of all ages, bell choirs, ensembles, and such. Identifying each group in the bulletin, worship sheet or insert would be helpful for the congregation. During the commissioning all can be asked to stand for the congregation to see who serves them. There are parts of the commissioning service in which the music staff will respond with one voice.

5. The prayer of intercession could include several persons who would be able to pray for different persons and needs-for worship leaders, for choirs, for directors and accompanists, and for all worshipers.