It all started in the seventies. The 90s helped teach me how to worship. Worship is more than singing, but it is not less. In the seventies I learned to love to sing.
A call to worship here:
In these noughties I was starting to travel. God was breaking my heart for the peoples of the world. The Sri Lankan tsunami was a defining experience. So also was a time in Zambia. I began to read new stuff, including Lamin Sanneh and Philip Jenkins. They took me to Psalm 91. 'In Christian Africa and Asia, (this) psalm is everywhere.' (Jenkins' New Faces of Christianity, 108). How could these Christians with so much to fear be so fond of a psalm with such bold assertions that there is no need to fear? It is a question that I cannot shake - and it comes from the peoples of God I want to emulate. Amidst the pestilence and plague, the terror and arrow, come these words:
A call to worship here:
A hymn over there:O come let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.For He is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.(95.6-7, KJV)
Or, the anthems I will sing until my dying days:Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.(96.9)
For thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth; Thou art exalted far above all Gods ... I exalt Thee.(97.9, KJV)
Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool; holy is He.(99.5, NRSV)
But there is more, much more to the 90s...
And in the eighties I discovered this.
We were living in Invercargill. I was pastoring a little church. They were tough years. However, as the decades have flowed on, it is hard to imagine life and love and leadership without those years. Often we travelled down to Bluff, to the AA sign - to the words inscribed in rock near its base (long since removed, I might add) - for the reassurance of God's power at work in creation - and in us:
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters.mightier than the breakers of the sea - the Lord on high is mighty.(93.4, NIV)
The 90s also entered the nineties with me. The Bible College of New Zealand had a magazine called The Reaper. I was on the staff and we were asked periodically to write bible study notes that would go out with the magazine. I think I did it twice - Ecclesiastes and ... I had forgotten - the 90s! In my sorting this week, I came across them. On rereading the 90s in the company of my old devotionals, the assurance of God's care refreshed me once again. For example, in the face of the wicked and those who might stand against him (vv16-17), comes the response:
When I thought, "My foot is slipping," your stedfast love, O Lord, held me up.When the cares of my heart are many, your consolation cheers my soul.(94.18-19, NRSV)
In the noughties, it was a verse, a single verse that grabbed my heart for an entire decade. For most of this time, I was principal at Carey Baptist College and this solitary verse captured both my early longing and my later testimony.
May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us;establish the work of our hands for us - yes, establish the work of our hands.... and I used to add, 'heads and hearts' as well.(90.17, NIV)
If you make the Most High your dwelling- even the Lord, who is my refuge -then no harm will befall you, no disaster will cone near your tent.For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.(91.9-11)
The twenty-tens opened with a visit to Cambodia in my new role with Langham Preaching. A people traumatised by the Khmer Rouge. Unspeakable horror. Talk about defining experiences. We were teaching 'the single story of the Bible' through the week. The participants hadn't been participating. Quiet and passive. 'Are we even on their wavelength?' Then at the end of the final day, the 'single story' reached Revelation and at the mention of the judgement day, our participants finally participated. They burst out into spontaneous cheering and applause. Never, ever again will I sit in judgement on the judgement of God - and the 90s capture it well.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;the world and those who live in it.Let the floods clap their hands;let the hills sing forever for joy;at the presence of the Lord,for he is coming to judge the earth.He will judge the world in righteousnessand the peoples with equity.(98.7-9, NIV; see also 96.11-13)
That is every psalm in the 90s covered - except for one. Maybe this one can come to full flower in my life in the twenty-twenties (by which time Twenty20 cricket will be dead, I might add) with its confidence of the presence of God in my life, bearing fruit on into old age...
I love the 90s. I wanna be a 90s kind of guy - across all the decades of my life. I wanna experience the worship, the power, the care, the favour, the protection, the judgement, the presence of the living God - and join him in his mission in the world, 'declaring his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples' (96.3).The righteous will flourish like a palm treethey will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;planted in the house of the Lord,they will flourish in the courts of our God.They will still bear fruit in old age,they will stay fresh and green.,proclaiming, "the Lord is upright;he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him."(92.12-15)