Liturgy Lessons: April 8, 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 146
Hymn: Worship Christ, the Risen King (#286)
Confession of Sin (Based on 1 Cor. 15)
Assurance of Pardon (Based on 1 Cor. 15 and 2 Cor. 5)
Hymns of Assurance: In Christ Alone
Reading of the Word: Luke 5:1-11
Sermon: Rev. Casey Bedell
Tithes and Offerings
Supper: Alleluia, Alleluia (#283); At the Lamb’s High Feast (#420)
Closing Hymn: There is a Higher Throne
How sweet to reflect on the joys that await me
In yon blissful region, the haven of rest,
Where glorified spirits with welcome shall greet me,
And lead me to mansions prepared for the blest;
Encircled in light, and with glory enshrouded,
My happiness perfect, my mind’s sky unclouded,
I’ll bathe in the ocean of pleasure unbounded,
And range with delight through the Eden of love.
While angelic legions, with harps tuned celestial,
Harmoniously join in the concert of praise,
The saints, as they flock from the regions terrestrial,
In loud hallelujah their voices will raise;
Then songs to the Lamb shall re-echo through heaven,
My soul will respond, to Immanuel be given
All glory, all honor, all might and dominion,
Who brought us, through grace to the Eden of love.
– Anonymous, The Southern Harmony, 1835
Aloha! I’m writing to you this week from Honolulu, where I am singing this week with the Hawaii Symphony. When I arrived, I was greeted at the airport by Merle, an amiable man from Fargo, North Dakota with sun-leathered skin who now works as the general manager of the symphony. He gave me a lei made from plumeria (a common tropical spring flower that emits a heavenly fragrance), and with a proud grin said, “welcome to paradise!”
He then drove me to my hotel and I learned that there is a Starbucks in paradise. This Eden in the middle of the Pacific also has copious hot tubs, which seem rather unnecessary when the temperature always hovers at 80 degrees, day and night. High-rise hotels hug the cornmeal sand of Waikiki Beach, where sun-seekers from East and West imitate Adam and Eve by wearing the modern equivalent of fig leaves. At night they all put their clothes back on and get ready for the mall and a Mai Tai.
At the end of the third book in Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” (aptly named “Paradise”), after finishing his journey out from hell to heaven, we find this final verse.
High fantasy lost power and here broke off;
Yet, as a wheel moves smoothly, free from jars,
My will and my desire were turned by love,
The love that moves the sun and the other stars.
The good news for the Christ-seeker is that the true paradise is more full-orbed and unspoiled than we could ever imagine. The pleasures of this world are but a scent from the Tree of Life (Rev. 2:7), the heat from the consuming fire (Heb. 12:29), the glow from the True Light (Jn. 8:12 and Apostles Creed). The true Eden of Love is where the surging waters of our hearts empty into the sea of God’s goodness. When Jesus promised the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise,” he was welcoming him into the reality of supreme light and fathomless joy that we can’t even imagine, where all of his grasping and striving and taking would be put to rest by the unbounding grace and embrace of Jesus Christ. Paradise indeed! Hula-lujah! Ha-lei-lujah!
Worship Christ the Risen King (#286)
Words: Jack Hayford (1986)
Music: Regent Square, Henry Smart (1867)
The kingdom of God 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 to these eternal truths, standing on the Rock of Ages, cleft and now become the cornerstone, we offer him our whole-hearted worship. On Easter Sunday, 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. Most of our hymns in the liturgy continue to focus on the victory and dominion of Jesus Christ. This hymn opens our worship in that theme.
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 phrase of music, 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!