The Servant King - February
Lent is the season of penance and prayer before Easter. This year (2016), it begins on Ash Wednesday 10th February and ends on Maundy Thursday 24th March during the week before Easter Sunday. On Ash Wednesday, the palm crosses received the previous year can be burnt , mixed with a little consecrated oil so the resulting material can be used to mark the sign of a cross on a person's forehead during the Ash Wednesday service to show that sins have been confessed and forgiveness received. In old fashioned language a person was said to have been ‘shriven’ i.e. absolved from their sins by a formal declaration. From this, we have the name Shove Tuesday when we may traditionally use up butter and other foodstuffs to make pancakes before having plainer food during Lent through to Easter Sunday. During Lent we also remember the 40 days which Christ spent in the wilderness and many Christians spend extra time in prayer and Bible Study.
Many hymn books in regular church use have mainly traditional hymns listed in the section for Lent although there are now an increasing number of modern songs included which focus on the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross and which are suitable for congregational use rather than personal meditation.
The singer/songwriter Graham Kendrick was born in 1950 , the son of a UK Baptist minister. He began his Christian musical career in the late 1960s as a member of a band called ‘Whispers of Truth’. He probably heard the 1968 45rpm extended play record produced by David and Dale Garrett called ‘Scripture in Song’, a pioneering concept in Christian music at the time but which became worldwide over the following decade. Worship songs are now so much part of regular church music that is can be difficult for those born during the last 40 years or so to grasp that our current worship songs began comparatively recently and have moved through cassette tapes and CDs to the digital format we can access through computers. After his time with the band Graham began working as a solo concert performer, recording artist and worship leader.
In 1984 Graham wrote the book ‘Worship’. In it he had much to say about worship in churches and some of the important points he made are as follows: We should learn to give praise and worship that is appropriate and which fits or matches the occasion while prayerfully looking for the particular purposes of God at the time. Those involved in music in the church should be sensitive to what God is saying to a church and what a church’s worship says to God.
It is important for those who lead worship to act as servants of those worshipping in the congregation; the leaders may have a personal style but overall the worship should be a genuine expression of the worshippers and those leading should ensure they serve the old as well as the young, the conservative as well as the adventurous, and those brought up in old traditions as well as those more focussed on contemporary worship styles. In particular he comments that obviously God should be central in the worship rather than issues surrounding the practice of worship dominating our thoughts rather than God Himself. While we need to give attention to the principles and mechanics of worship e.g. for a musician to have due regard for sensitivity and accuracy of playing, it is only a revelation of God that causes the worship to flow out of thankful hearts.
As Graham emphasizes in his book that those involved in leading worship are primarily to serve the church so it is appropriate to include his song ‘The Servant King’ in this series as one which is often used in services in Lent. It was written in 1983 and has 4 verses which are each followed by a short chorus. Verse 1 follows:
‘From heaven you came helpless babe,
Entered our world , Your glory veiled,
Not to be served but to serve,
And give your life that we might live.
This is our God , the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.
After the first verse which tells how Christ entered this world as a baby, the second reminds us that He took our sin on Himself and became a willing sacrifice, the third of some of the wounds He received before His death and the fourth contains a call to serve others as He served us.
The tune has a timeless quality and very much supports the words set to it. As with many other worship songs which are lasting over 3 decades it is a tune which is easy to remember and a congregation can adapt easily to the slight irregularities it contains. The Servant King will no doubt be used in many services across the UK during Lent this year and probably for many to come.