Songs for Worship

Welcome to True Vine Music! Our mission is to provide Christ-centered, Biblically-grounded, contemporary worship songs for the church. We provide original congregational worship songs on many themes including Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Liturgy. Come, let us worship the Lord!

 

   

Sacramental Theology

There is a shortage of contemporary sacramental worship songs.  This is one of the challenges of using contemporary worship music in a church with a sacramental theology. You have to look pretty hard to find music that explicitly reflects sacramental theology.  The bulk of new worship music comes from traditions that view baptism and the Lord’s Supper as symbolic of God’s grace rather than means that convey His grace.

On this page I just want to put down a few thoughts about sacramental theology for those who are at home in that tradition.  I’m also providing this for those who are not coming from that perspective and are wondering just where in the world we are coming from.

The Physical and the Spiritual

The root of the issue is whether the physical can convey the spiritual.  Those who do not hold to sacramental theology maintain that the physical can only point to or represent the spiritual, but actually conveys nothings.  Baptism symbolizes the washing away of sin and rebirth from the grave.  The Lord’s Supper represents His body and blood.  The physical points to the spiritual, but nothing spiritual is actually given through it. 

Is this dualistic approach actually supported by Scripture?  Of course no one on either side would claim that God cannot convey spiritual benefit through physical means.  The question is whether He does in fact work that way and has He told us to expect Him to do so.

Creation and Fall

I believe that He does and He has.  In fact He has been doing so from the beginning, from His choice to bring a physical/spiritual universe into existence.  In the creation of man from the dust of the earth, God breathed into him and he became a living being (Genesis 2:7).  Man is a dust/breath composite. The dust is not merely a shell from the indwelling breath.  Together they are one living being. A “sacramental” being, if you will.  (I’m using sacramental here in the broadest sense.)  Keep in mind that the completion and fulfillment of history is resurrection.  Our eternal destiny is as a resurrection dust/breath being, not a purely “spiritual” existence as in Greek and Eastern thought. 

The fall came through an anti-sacrament.  God warned man “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).Note the wording:  This tree is imbued with the knowledge of good and evil. Death would come by eating the fruit from this tree.  A spiritual curse would be conveyed through eating the physical fruit.  And so humanity fell, and every since then the effects of the fall, original sin have been passed from one generation of dust/breath composite living beings to the next.

Old Testament Sacraments

And so we would expect that there would be “sacramental” means given by God not just in cursing, but also in blessing.  We see this in his selection of Abraham and his descendants to be a means of blessing for all the world.  The chosen people of God are a “sacramental” people.  God intends to convey spiritual blessing to the entire universe through this family. 

Levitical Worship was sacramental.  The blessings of forgiveness and fellowship were conveyed by God through the physical means of the sacrifices.  To be sure these blessings, as all of God’s spiritual benefits, are apprehended by faith.  But the point remains that the grace is given through the sacramental activity of the sacrifices.  For instance Leviticus 4:19-20 reads, “He shall remove all the fat from it and burn it on the altar, and do with this bull just as he did with the bull for the sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.”  Read through Leviticus 4 and 5 and you will see this pattern repeated again and again.  Atonement is made and forgiveness given through the sacrifices, the aroma of which is pleasing to the Lord. 

When looking at the Old Testament this way, examples abound:  The bronze serpent that Moses placed on a pole (Numbers 21:4-9).  The bread and water given to Elijah by the angel (1 Kings 19:1-9).  The waters of the Jordan that healed Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-14).  God regularly uses the physical stuff of creation as a vehicle for his blessings and grace.

The Incarnation

But all of these pale in comparison to the chief Sacramental activity of all, the centerpiece of all of God’s activity, the Incarnation. In Jesus Christ, God has combined his very spiritual essence with the physical stuff of humanity, the two persons as one Christ.  Jesus body didn’t merely represent or point to God’s intention with humanity.  It was God in the flesh and what happened to Christ’s physical body effected the salvation of the world.  The death and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ is the supreme sacramental activity, and the source of our salvation. 

Sacraments Today

So it only follows that the conveying for the fruits of that saving event are conveyed sacramentally as well.  This is chiefly done through the Word of God, through the Gospel, the communication of saving activity and intention of God.  Now stop and think about this.  It is very natural to consider the word and the gospel as purely “spiritual.” But is it?  Jesus left no writings, and He does not directly convey the good news. He has chosen to propagate the salvation He won through humans, through their words, through their speech, through their actions.  The only way to have the saving work of Christ come to you is through His people: their words, their writings, their songs, their actions.   

The Bibles we read are physical objects which convey spiritual blessings.  The sermon we hear is a physical event, sound waves from the speaker’s larynx through the air that cause vibrations in the bones of our ears and so forth.  

And so in baptism God is at work.  Note that the passages which speak of baptism don’t speak of anything that we are doing (confessing our faith, committing our lives), but rather speak of what God is doing or what has been done to us (clothed, buried, washed, forgiven, saved, etc.)  Here again, God is up to His old trick of conveying spiritual blessing through a physical means. In this case it is a means that also provides rich symbolism to help us better understand, remember, and treasure the gift that He is giving. 

And in the Lord’s Supper we have the antidote to the forbidden fruit in the garden.  Here we eat and drink and live.  Christ conveys His very self through the physical means of bread and wine.  Here we enter the Holy of Holies, and in fact take the Holy of Holies within ourselves.  All of the Old Testament sacramental worship and theology is here fulfilled in Christ and offered to us.  We can never begin to describe nor exhaust the richness of the mystery and gift which Christ gives to us in this sacrament. 

Sacramental Living

And finally then, we ourselves as Christians live in this world as living sacraments.  We are dust/breath composites in whom the Triune God dwells, and though whom He blesses the world.  Our lives and words convey spiritual blessing to the world around us.   

So does God convey spiritual blessing through physical means?  Has he told us to expect it?  Yes, He does and yes He has.  It is our very life and it is the hope for the life of the world.

Now, what we need are more contemporary worship songs that reflect this . . . 

 

   

 

   

Other Songs

Songs Evaluations

The LCMS Commission on Worship's Song Evaluations identifies a number of songs that are sacramental-friendly

Communion Songs

There is an encouraging trend in new worship songs that have more of a sacramental and "real presence" awareness.  What's really encouraging is that these songs are coming from "big names."  Here are some examples:

 
  • "Communion"
    • Third Day
  • "Jesus Messiah"
    • Chris Tomlin
  • "This is Our Freedom"
    • Jeremy Johnson, Paul Marino, Greg Nelson
  • "Remembrance"
    • Matt Maher, Matt Redman