In recent months I have been incorporating into our worship services moments that I call “Vintage Worship.” In a culture that seems to cycle through the decades bringing back the vintage in clothing, pop music, and even carpet (shag is back, you know), I decided to do the same with worship songs. Now, I realize this is nothing new, but I thought that putting up a special slide and really making this an intentional time of reflection in worship would create effective moments for our congregation.

The idea is to bring back an old hymn after researching it and doing my best to find out who wrote it, what was going on in their lives, what inspired them, etc. Just about every time I prepare for a Vintage Worship moment, I am astonished by what my research reveals. And then I share my findings with the church during our Sunday services.

One such hymn was recently revived by David Crowder on this album. Charles Wesley wrote "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" in 1739 to commemorate the one year anniversary of his conversion. It was such a big deal to him that he wrote nineteen verses! Obviously, it is impractical to sing all nineteen verses in congregational worship today, but two of the verses really stand out to me as powerful and worthy of sharing.

(verse 17)
Harlots and publicans and thieves
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes
From crimes as great as mine.

(verse 18)
Murderers and all ye hellish crew
In holy triumph join!
Believe the Savior died for you
For me the Savior died.

This type of language (harlots, thieves, murderers) is rarely heard in churches today, especially in songs. We have no problem (at least some of us) talking about sin and forgiveness, but we like to keep things “G” rated. I wonder if when Wesley talks about “crimes as great as mine” he was thinking of the passage in Matthew 5 where Jesus says,

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

You have heard that it was said, "Do not commit adultery." But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Jesus' language is at least "PG-13," and the His Gospel message is definitely more offensive than anything "R" rated. It was probably closer to "X" rated in the ears and eyes of law-abiding Jews. Jesus raises the bar for the self-righteous, making it even more impossible for them to obey. And He rejects those who "have it all together" in the very act of accepting into His arms the naked and blood-stained. I am reminded in Jesus' and Wesley's words that I am in fact a murderer, thief, adulterer, and the list goes on.

I wonder how much of an impact this "X-plicit" Message would have on a genuine seeker or skeptic if instead of shying away from it, we honestly and openly proclaimed it in our churches. Would it more accurately portray the depth of sin and even greater forgiveness that is found only in Christ? Lyrics like this scream out, "It doesn’t matter who you are, what you've done, where you come from; you can be forgiven." Perhaps in addition to the filthy unregenerates Wesley is trying to evangelize in these words, "religious" church-goers could also use a good dose of his language in order to shake them out of their hypocritical, judgmental, holier-than-thou attitudes that many outsiders see in them. It seems to me it would be a good thing all around.

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