SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS

By: John Dowdell


Serve the Lord with gladness,
and come before his presence with a song.

There’s not much text to examine in this week’s anthem, but that repetition helps reinforce the simplicity of the anthem’s message: may we serve the Lord with gladness! This clearly aligns with the theme of “Others First” in our vision frame.

It seems to me that there are probably two main categories when it comes to serving the Lord. First is in honoring the service commitments we have already made, which in our case primarily comes through the choir – our commitment to attend and participate in retreats, practices, and services. Additionally, several of us have additional responsibilities outside the choir, whether that is through deacons or elders, or other committees, or even outside the church. In these cases, our anthem calls us not only to fulfill these commitments we have made, but to do so with gladness. Certainly at times there can be a grudging sense of obligation when it comes to these commitments, but that is not the attitude our anthem calls us to. Like our earlier anthem Lay Aside Every Weight, we need to shed whatever selfish attitude may hinder us and fulfill our service commitments with enthusiasm.

Also, in our daily lives, there are also more spontaneous opportunities to serve – occurrences not on our pre-planned schedule, but still a chance to put others first. That type of service can be through performing an impulsive good deed, giving of time or money towards a special need, or even offering a word of comfort or a prayer to someone who is struggling. In these cases, when we do see a need that can be fulfilled, we should similarly respond with a sense of gladness and availability. In addition to the commitments we are honoring, we are also to be on the lookout for ways to spontaneously and joyfully serve our Lord.

As we go through this week, it might be a good idea to think about the areas in which we serve the Lord, both in our commitments and in how we approach our unplanned opportunities. Are there areas where we have been resisting the call to serve? And are we serving with an attitude of gladness; if not, how can we move towards adopting that approach?

One note on an interpretation of the music: I am struck by the contrast in the musical theme between the two phrases of text. When we sing the words, “serve the Lord with gladness,” the subject melody is very active – the way the tune turns rapidly through the many eighth and sixteenth notes paints a very kinetic picture. In a sense, it tells us that doing work in the service of God can be a busy and frenetic activity. However, it is contrasted by the countersubject on the text, “…and come before his presence with a song.” When we sing these latter words, instead of a frenzied structure, this is conveyed with a stately and majestic-sounding series of whole and half notes. While doing service to God may add to a busy workload, it allows us to enter the presence of God in a very unhurried and splendid way, and that is a wonderful promise – I really like how Handel set this text.

Instead of a usual closing prayer this week, I thought I’d just close with the passage’s source material, Psalm 100. May this psalm of gratefulness serve as our prayer.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

May we serve the Lord with gladness this week, and come before his presence with a song!

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