Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
I had a discussion with a pastor-friend about plans for remembering and celebrating the Passion Week of Christ in the corporate gathering of believers, the church. I discussed two items around this celebration: 1) the various services we have during this week and their emphases, and 2) the songs that we sing to support the biblical truth of Christ's passion, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection.
As you will read, this discussion focused on the themes/truths emphasized in the services and the music that supplements and supports those truths/themes. What I noticed is that my pastor-friend desired to carry over the Good Friday truth/theme into the Sunday morning Resurrection truth/theme.
Here is what I wrote.
First, my sense is that when we come to Palm Sunday, passion week culminating in Jesus’ death and burial, followed by the glorious and victorious resurrection of Jesus, we observe in this one great act four scenes: scene 1 – triumphal entry into Jerusalem; scene 2 – passion week with His death; scene 3 – victorious resurrection; scene 4 – the transformation of the disciples/church, which continues to this day, rooted in the historical fact of the completed work of Christ.
The question then becomes, what do you want to emphasis and when in the preaching and teaching and singing as the corporate body gathers? Whatever is decided, it is helpful to frame the services in this way, and to communicate this with God’s people as well.
Second, it is important for the gathered body to sing the hymns of the church focusing on these various scenes in this great act of God. If you look at the rest of the songs that will be sung/confessed/professed corporately, besides the opening hymn emphasizing Jesus’ glorious resurrection (“Christ the Lord is Risen Today”), and the one focusing on the Good Friday theme (“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord”), all the others could be sung at any time of the year. There is something significantly missing when the church does not use these times of the Church Year to focus on the themes/truths of that time of the year in the life of the Church. Where else will the gathered church sing these songs, and how else will believers at all ages and stages learn these songs that have been sung by the gathered church for hundreds, for thousands of years
Regarding hymns and choruses, my pastor-friend could come up with three hymns related to the Resurrection truth. I included a number of suggestions and recommendations made by Bob Kauflin over the past few years. Kauflin serves as the worship pastor of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and author of the book, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). You might find some helpful resources in these links as well.
“Easter Service - Songs for the Resurrection”: http://www.worshipmatters.com/2006/02/17/easter-service-songs-for-the-resurrection/
“Reflections on Easter (With Some Song Recommendations)”: http://www.worshipmatters.com/2007/03/06/worship-leaders-reflections-on-easter-song-recommendations/
“Songs that Celebrate the Resurrection in View of the Cross”: http://www.worshipmatters.com/2010/02/26/songs-that-celebrate-the-resurrection-in-view-of-the-cross/