Trumpets, Ashes, and Tears

In the previous post (3/11/2011), I wrote: “The performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Concordia University Center last Christmas season left “onceinalifetime” experiences for members of Irvine Master Chorale. Under the baton of Ms. Shang Li-Ying, the choir and the orchestra gave a superb performance to an audience over 700 in a cold, raining night. Many in the audience sent warm compliments and praises afterwards.”

Here, I would like to elaborate more on what I have written. An authentic worship will include praise, penitence, lament, adoration, confession, intercession; and all the emotions that fit them (1). Praise is only one way to engage God because it reflects only one part of our life’s experience, as Nicholas Wolterstorff has observed and wrote in his assay “Trumpets, Ashes, and Tears” (2). A recent article argued why Praise and Worship Music is praise but not worship (3).

When I sang “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way”, I felt a deep pain within, on my past mistakes. And I pray to God for mercy and deliverance. When I sang “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him”, I held my tears but deep inside me was the lament of the pain and grief. God is a suffering God and I long for His forgiveness.

What I have heard is that the audiences worshiped along with the whole choir on that night. People felt that Christ by the Spirit is present to lead our fellowship and our worship. We experienced penitence, lament and confession besides praise. This holistic worship is not attainable easily and that is why it is a “once-in-a-life-time” experience.


  1. “discerning the spirits – A Guide to Thinking about Christian Worship Today” by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. & Sue A. Rozeboom; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies Series;  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003.
  2. “Trumpets, Ashes, and Tears” by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reformed Journal 36, no. 2 (February 1986):19.
  3. “Why Praise and Worship Music is Praise, But Not Worship” by Rev Fr Christopher Smith in

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