Welcome to 2014!
I don’t know how you approach a New Year. Many people like to start out by drawing up a list of habits they want to cultivate; what they will force themselves to eat (usually green items) and what they will avoid eating (brown… and greasy); how many pounds they’ll save (£) and how many pounds they’ll lose (lb). Depending on when you read this, you may currently feel good about your freshly-written list of resolutions, or you might already wish that you had not written them in the first place!
For some people a New Year is a time of thankfulness, where they can look back to the previous year and celebrate all the great things they enjoyed. For others it’s an opportunity to draw a line under the past 12 months and start afresh. Some enter the New Year full of excitement about all it will hold; others with dread. Some have big dreams; others, big fears.
In amongst the planning and hoping – the well-intentioned resolutions for our budgets, our diaries and our waistlines – we think there is great value in giving some attention to our spiritual lives as well.
At ChristChurch London, we’re planning to start 2014 with a sermon series based in the book of Psalms, which will help us deepen our lives with God at the beginning of the New Year.
The Psalms are found in the Old Testament and are a diverse compendium of songs and prayers which express the whole gamut of emotions that make up the human experience. One writer recently summed up the Psalms in a tweet: “When my heart broke in two, I taught both parts to sing.”
Over thousands of years people have drawn strength and encouragement from the Psalms, discovering in them new language to express and process their emotions. These songs have strengthened weak voices, inspired great art, and been a mainstay of worship for centuries. I think it is fair to say that Christians have not only historically been “people of the book”, but more particularly, “people of the hymn-book.”
The book is made up of 150 songs, compiled over hundreds of years. About half of them were written by King David. Some are attributed to Solomon, Moses, Asaph and the Sons of Korah, whilst many are entirely anonymous. Many of them are general songs of worship; some are very context-specific: written whilst David was hiding in a cave, or fleeing enemies, or heading into battle. Some were written for use at particular times of the year, in feasts and festivals or accompanying a particular pilgrimage or ritual. Some were designed for whole crowds to sing together. Others were personal, private, cathartic songs; the author expressing their deepest needs and longings in poetic form.
All of life is explored in the pages of this book, and there is a song for every phase of the heart. We believe that every emotion is an opportunity to reorient our hearts towards God in worship.
We’ve called the sermon series Songs in the Key of Life, and over eight weeks we want to look at how this collection of ancient songs and prayers can help our hearts to sing. By looking at the Psalms we want to learn how to engage with God in every phase of life; through our joy, wonder, grief, hope, fear and longing.
I can’t predict what 2014 will look like for you. But I trust that this series will help to encourage and strengthen you at the outset of this New Year, and I hope it will inspire and equip you to engage with God in new ways, whatever this year has in store.
Check out the Preaching Calendar to find out more about what we will cover throughout this series.