CONFESSING AND PRAISING WITH ONE VOICE by Jean E. Peterson, Region V Archives Volunteer

Let US give our thanks and sing our praise to the Lord!

“O come let US worship and bow down

Let US kneel before God our Maker

Let US rejoice with Thanksgiving

Let US give our Thanks

Let US sing our praises (with ONE Voice!) in gratitude for God’s great gifts of Grace and Mercy for US.

Let US SING unto the Lord with grateful hearts!

We Lutherans have a rich heritage of hymns from many sources, but as I listen and learn, I am increasingly conscious that many of the hymns we sing in community worship use “God and me” words.   These are appropriate for private devotion and personal use.  Many of my own favorite hymns are included among them; but it bothers me to use “God and me” language in public worship.

We heartily sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving together.  “Let us talents and tongues employ,” “Now thank we all our God!”; “Halleluiah!  We sing Your Praises,” “Let us go now to the Banquet.”

But when it comes to confessing our weaknesses, we are not always quite so bold as to claim that we all are sinners weak and vulnerable.  When the Service Book and Hymnal came out in 1958, our Sunday morning liturgy included Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

“Chief of Sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me” … is the hymn I resonated to most in my young adult years, because I was absolutely convinced that I alone was the Chief of Sinners.

I recall a sermon by Dr. Nessan a number years ago, in which he said, “If you think your neighbor doesn’t have any problems, you don’t know your neighbor very well.”

Several years later, I said to a trusted pastor, “I am weak, but you are strong.”   His reply was, “Don’t say, ‘I am weak, you are strong.’  Say, “WE are weak.  WE are strong.’”

I once audited a course in human nature.  I learned that our need for forgiveness from our weaknesses is a “human universal.”

Although I may not know what is going on in your life when I sit next to you in chapel or in church, I do know that Grace is for all of us; and all of us in the assembly share praise andthanksgiving for the One who has given us all merciful grace and forgiveness.  Whether we’re asking mercy and forgiveness, seeking help or healing in our vulnerability, or whether we are offering Praise and Thanksgiving with hearts overflowing with joy and happiness, or whether we are treading our daily routine in relative calm and stability (for the moment, at least!), I like to be aware of those surrounding me in this place, as well as for others throughout theworld outside our walls.

We come from classroom, office, workspace, or outside, as individuals with personal needs, but when we gather together in the sanctuary to worship, we are no longer a collection of individuals.  We are now a community all singing and sharing together – our Kyrie, our Praise, our Thanksgiving.  We are now in relationship with each other, singing, praying, praising with one voice.   As a community, no matter what our individual needs may be, we are together, confessing our sin and professing our faith.  I am in a relationship with you because you are sitting next to me, even though I may know nothing else about you.  I do include you in my worship, by virtue of the fact that we are worshipping together as one body

Because God’s Grace isn’t just for me, but is for everyone (at any level in growth, healing, or maturing in the faith), our hymns and our prayers should include all of us.

So don’t be surprised to hear me sing “we” and “us” instead of “I” and “me” in worship,   even when “we-us” words don’t rhyme with the written “me-I” text of the hymn.

“Jesus loves US, this WE know, for the Bible tells us so!”

“Jesus, remember US when You come into Your Kingdom.”

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