Athanasius – Psalms in Spiritual Formation

Worship Thoughts for Sunday 6.30
An ancient theologian of the church – Athanasius of Alexandria – a 4th century Greek wrote about singing the Psalms and spiritual formation (becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ). His thoughts are more fascinating when you consider the typical understanding of musical expression in our culture today.

Most of the time, when I ask people why they like to sing I usually get an answer that singing is a means of personal EXPRESSION – a way of drawing out what is IN US.

However, Athanasius almost inverts this reasoning. The first outcome of singing praises to God, according to Athanasius, is not self-expression, but impression. In singing the Psalms, the truth of God is drawn into the depths of our being rather than out of the depths of our being.

Athanasius leaves us with this final thought about “why we sing” written in a commentary by Steven Guthrie.

“As the Christian goes about ‘beautifully singing praises, he brings rhythm to his soul and leads it, so to speak, from disproportion to proportion.’ (Athanasius) This proportioned, harmonized self is not our normal state of being. Apart from Christ, the ordinary state of affairs is for the various members and impulses of our person to jostle for control, battling with one another. But when one sings, body, reason, emotion, physical sense, and desire come alongside one another, each enlisted together in the praise of God. As we sing, we become a harmony.”

This is not to suggest that music in itself has the power to make us holy. Believe me… It doesn’t.  It can’t.  As much as I love music, and I really do! Music is not my God.  Only God is God.

But the spiritual discipline Athanasius described here involves singing the words of Scripture, and singing them in the presence of God and the company of God’s people draws all the diverse and discordant elements of our humanity together, surrendered, and then lifted to God in worship.

Only then, do we experience true joy and true harmony with God, with oneself, and with one another.

Here are the songs we are singing this week

How Can I Keep From Singing Your Praise – Chris Tomlin
Nothing But the Blood – Matt Redman
The Heart of Worship – Matt Redman
The Love of God – Mercy Me
Glorious Day – Casting Crowns
Endless Hallelujah – Matt Redman

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