Liturgy Lessons: April 23, 2017
Call to Worship: Psalm 145:1-10
Hymn of Adoration: “Worship Christ, the Risen King” (#286)
Confession of Sin: from Romans 7
Assurance of Pardon: from Romans 8
Songs of Assurance: “Abba Father” (Hauck); “Be Thou My Vision” (#642)
Tithes and Offerings
Sermon: Pastor Irwin
Supper: “Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me”; “My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness” (Getty)
Closing Hymn: “Jesus Shall Reign” (#441)
Each Easter, over 90 million chocolate bunnies and 700 million marshmallow Peeps are produced in America. If you visited your local grocery store on Easter evening, you may have even found the excess on clearance. For about a week out of every year, our Walgreens and Safeways become a pastel paradise of disposable delicacies, cheap confections, and throwaway treats. And then there is the stress-inducing, injury-laden egg-hunt (which always reminds me of a kid-version of the Oklahoma land rush of 1889). How long does it take for those hard-won Easter eggs to be forgotten and discarded? In such a culture of non-stop novelty, how do we faithfully serve our risen King who declares, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (Jn. 15:16)? I find that reading Hebrews 12 is a perfect defense against my own tendency to doddle in disposable distraction. It ends with this harder-than-diamond truth:
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
His kingdom cannot be shaken. His word shall not return void (Isaiah 55:11). His faithfulness is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2). His truth forever stands (Psalm 111:8). His love endures forever (Psalm 100:5). In grateful response, standing on the Rock of Ages, cleft and now become the cornerstone, we offer him our wholehearted worship. In a recent e-mail exchange, Kurt Krieger called Easter “the most important event in history!” We know that to be true. For us it is as if a glorious musical chord has struck, and the resonance of the resurrection spins on, unfading and without decay, in the temple of the redeemed. And so, this Sunday we continue our Easter celebration. Our liturgy reflects that resonance as we hold tightly to the truth we profess. May our singing be more than just peeps!
Worship Christ the Risen King (#286)
Words: Jack Hayford (1986)
Music: Regent Square, Henry Smart (1867)
Henry T. Smart composed this tune for a doxology setting of “Glory be to God the Father.” It was first published in the English Presbyterian Church’s Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1867), of which Smart was music editor. The tune was named after Regent Square Church, the “Presbyterian cathedral” of London. A prolific composer of hymn settings, Mr. Smart gave us many other beloved tunes, including “Fairest Lord Jesus” and “Lead on, O King Eternal.” The arc and shape of his writing is like musical caffeine, full of lift and surge. This tune, sometimes associated at advent with the text “angels from the realms of glory,” has three distinct lifts in each musical phrase, each one rising higher than the last. When I sing this tune, I feel like a kid in a swing, being gently pushed higher with each measure. Jack Hayford has gifted us with an encouraging text that brings focus and clarity to the uplifting music. Fittingly, the first line is “Rise, O church, and lift your voices.” Already he has used two words (“rise” and “lift”) that perfectly mirror and mandate what the music is already encouraging us to do. The final phrase of each verse starts on the highest note in the entire hymn, elevating heart and voice in a call to “worship Christ, the risen King!” We open our worship with this resurrection hymn as a potent reminder that Easter is ongoing in our hearts, and we once again have the privilege of joining the unending symphony of praise that is forever unfolding around the throne of the Risen lamb!
Sheet music: http://www.trinitypresri.org/music/th-286-worship-christ-the-risen-king.pdf
Accompaniment recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqrHNY_7P3w
Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me
Words: Paul Gerhardt (1653); Translated by John Wesley (1739)
Music: St. Chrysostom, Joseph Barnby (1872)
In 1737, John Wesley traveled to the American colonies. While in Georgia, he was introduced to “O Jesu Christ, meine schönstes Licht” (O Jesus, my beautiful light), a hymn by the famous Lutheran pastor and hymn writer Paul Gerhardt. He was so enamored by the hymn that he translated all 16 verses into English; And, during a final sermon before leaving the colonies, Wesley quoted the second stanza, saying that it was his “heart’s cry”:
O, grant that nothing in my soul may dwell but Thy pure love alone!
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole, my joy, my treasure, and my crown!
All coldness from my heart remove; My every act, word, thought, be love.
Next to Martin Luther, Gerhardt is perhaps the most gifted and popular hymn writer of the Lutheran Church. He served as Pastor at Mittenwalde (1651-1657) and St. Nicholas’ Church in Berlin (1658-1666), and his love for scripture is evident throughout his hymn-writing. In this particular hymn, scripture is referenced in every stanza, and taken as a whole, it reads as a poetic expression of Deuteronomy 6:5 (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, and with all your strength”). Even though most modern hymnals only use a quarter of the original material, the four verses that remain are full of beautiful imagery, sound theology, and prayerful passion for Christ. Considering how sublime the text is (in my opinion, on par with the best work of Bernard of Clairveaux), it is unfortunate that this hymn is not more widely known nor used. I suspect it is because it has not found a worthy musical setting. There are some melodies linked with this hymn, but none of them do it justice. When I first read through the text, I felt it was a diamond without a ring. I am not a master craftsman, but I decided to lay this gem inside the melodic form of a tune called St. Chrysostom, a melody we usually associate with “We have not known thee as we ought” (#493 Trinity Hymnal). I looked through many melodies with meters that would fit, and found only this one that might be a worthy suitor. Time will tell if it will turn out to be a flourishing marriage.
To practice singing through this, you will need to open both of the following links. While the piano accompaniment plays, you can intuitively match the lyrics to the melody.
Jesus Shall Reign (#441)
Words: Isaac Watts (1719)
Music: Duke Street, John Hatton (1793)
Isaac Watts, famous for his psalm paraphrases, wrote this text based on Psalm 72. It was one of many in his publication Psalms of David, Imitated. Focused on Christ’s dominion over the whole earth, this is a stately and majestic hymn. The tune is a sweeping line that covers an entire octave in regular step-wise climbs. I think it is an intuitive and brilliant melody that really “sings” in full sentence phrases, rather than the unfortunate plodding on every syllable that is so common to 4-part hymn settings. In order that the word might “dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16), I encourage you to use the following guide as a devotional tool in learning this hymn. Read the scripture references, and then sing each corresponding hymn verse:
One note of clarification; in verse 5, we are told to bring “peculiar honors to our King.” The word “peculiar” is frequently changed to “highest” in some hymnals. It basically means “set apart” or “exclusively for.” It doesn’t mean to bring “odd” or “strange” gifts to worship. We wouldn’t want all those leftover marshmallow peeps to end up in the offering plates.