Open Now the Gates of Beauty | How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Open Now the Gates of Beauty | How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Liturgy Lesson: November 3, 2019

Call to Worship: Ps. 100 and responses from Ps. 51, 124, 43
Hymn of Adoration: Open Now the Gates of Beauty (#376)
Reading: Psalm 1
Call to Confession: Matt. 3:8, 10
Song of Confession: Lord be Merciful to Me

Assurance of Pardon: Is. 61:1-3, 10-11

Hymns of Assurance: My Jesus, I Love Thee (#648); O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (#164)

Reading of the Word: Luke 13:10-17

Doxology – #731

Sermon: Rev. Shiv Muthukumar

Tithes & Offerings 

Supper: How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds (Bowater); Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands
Closing Hymn: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed (#311)


“A metaphor for artful beauty as an exhibition of God’s grace keeps visiting my imagination – a reservoir of mountain spring water brimming with marine life. It is glorious. The sun glints from its surface. The wind excites it into ripples. It reflects the blue and white, or thundery gray, of the sky. It is a mirror for the sun and moon. For years it has been building, dammed up, waiting for release, impatient for its generosity to be poured into the valley below with its fields of wheat, its orchards, its forests. Though a narrow spillway has allowed a trickle of life and health to reach the valley, for some valley-dwellers the reservoir has been seen as dangerous fearful, a symbol of potential flood that could destroy life. Better to keep this bounty under control behind the barrier of rock and concrete. Better not to allow it to pour too freely. Better to narrow its course into the well-worn channels permitted by tradition or custom.

But in the church as surge is happening in response to human thirst! Living water is beginning to guys! Let’s welcome the overflowing torrent! Mixed metaphors? Okay. But our God is the God of plenty, who uses multiple word pictures throughout Scripture to illuminate the minds of both writers and readers.”
– Luci Shaw, foreword to For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts

Open Now the Gates of Beauty
Text: Benjamin Schmolck, 1732; Tr. by Catherine Winkworth, 1863
Music: UNSER HERRSCHER, Joachim Neander, 1680

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To gaze on beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

– Psalm 27:4

Benjamin Schmolck was the most popular German hymnwriter of his era. While Isaac Watts was scribbling out scriptural shorthand in England, Schmolck was writing expressive and deeply devotional hymns in Silesia (modern-day Poland). Schmolck was well-known in his own district as a popular preacher and a diligent pastor. It was, however, his devotional books, and the original hymns they contained, that carried his name and fame all over Germany. In the dictionary of hymnology from 1907, John Julian gives a critic’s review of Schmolck’s hymnwriting, saying that he was “too fond of high-sounding expressions, of plays upon words, of far-fetched but often recurring contrasts, and in general of straining after effect, especially in the pieces written in his later years. In fact, he wrote a great deal too much, and latterly without proper attention to concentration or to proportion.” Sounds like my kind of guy!

Schmolck wrote in abundance. He wrote cantatas; occasional pieces for weddings and funerals; and is the author of some 900 hymns. As with any prolific composer or author, not all the work is of the highest quality—every high-yielding fruit tree has some bad apples. But I admire the fact that he poured himself out with such generosity. In this way he was like Charles Wesley who wrote almost constant verse, or J.S. Bach who composed an entire cantata every week for Sunday worship. God is a god of abundance, and he deserves no half-measures. It brings to mind the woman who broke open the jar of perfume to anoint Jesus, spilling out upon her Savior the equivalent of an entire year’s salary. Can you fathom writing a tithe check in the amount of your annual income?

How are we to respond when scripture tells us to “Seek the Lord with all your heart” or calls us to “love the lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength”? In response to Christ who gave himself for us, we are to give our all. In Schmolck’s writing, one can hear this grasping language of mutual desire and complete commitment. The soul is thirsty for the Lord, and so the water spigot is turned all the way, the shower head opened for highest flow.

Open now thy gates of beauty,
Zion, let me enter there,
Where my soul in joyful duty
Waits for God, who answers prayer.
Oh, how blessed is this place,
Filled with solace, light, and grace!

Gracious God, I come before thee;
Come thou also unto me;
Where we find thee and adore thee,
There a heaven on earth must be.
To my heart, oh, enter thou,
Let it be thy temple now!

Here thy praise is gladly chanted,
Here thy seed is duly sown;
Let my soul, where it is planted,
Bring forth precious sheaves alone,
So that all I hear may be
Fruitful unto life in me.

Thou my faith increase and quicken,
Let me keep thy gift divine;
How so ever temptations thicken,
May the Word still over me shine
As my guiding star through life,
As my comfort in all strife.

Speak, O God, and I will hear thee,
Let thy will be done indeed;
May I undisturbed draw near thee
While thou dost thy people feed.
Here of life the fountain flows;
Here is balm for all our woes.

The word “aspire” means to long for, to hope for, to yearn for, to aim for, or to desire. If you take the letters of this word and shift them around a bit, you end up with another word that sums up the end goal of all our efforts: Praise! Let us pray that the Holy Spirit would empower us to turn all our heart, all our mind, all our soul, all our strength, all our will, all our affections, all our life toward the Lord.

Let us aspire to praise!
Piano accompaniment

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
Text: John Newton, 1779
Music: Chris Bowater, 1990

“….your name is oil poured out…”
– Song of Solomon 1:3

Tim Challies writes this about the great pastor and hymnwriter John Newton:

“John Newton was ordained a curate of Olney Parish in Buckinghamshire, England, after a hard past of working as a sailor and slave trader, he gave particular attention to ministering to the people in ways that went above and beyond the weekly worship service. He began arranging spiritual gatherings during the week: one on Thursday afternoons for children, where he would explain the Scriptures to them “in their own little way,” and one in the evenings for adults to allow for extemporaneous prayer and teaching. For these meetings Newton began to compose little bits of verse to be sung, probably as a way to summarize and impress the Scripture lessons on the minds and hearts of his congregants. Regarding his composition of these hymns, writes Newton was not a poet and did not pretend to be one. . . . He was writing for plain people, and made his hymns so simple that these could follow and understand. In all this he took his cue from Isaac Watts. Newton had a ready pen, some imagination, deep feeling, a knowledge of Scripture, and an urgent motive.

Eventually Newton composed over 200 of these hymns and combined them with 68 more from his friend William Cowper to publish Olney Hymns. The book became quite popular in England and America as it captured the spirit and theology of the Evangelical revival that was happening in those days through the ministries of George Whitefield, the Wesleys, and many others.”

One of the most famous and enduring selections from the Olney Hymns is “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.” Its original published title was simply “The Name of Jesus.”

The New Testament refers to the name of Jesus nearly 100 times—not to his person, but to the name itself, as when John wrote that “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.” The apostles baptized in his name (Acts 2:38). They healed in his name (Acts 3:6). They preached salvation by his name (Acts 4:12). They suffered for the sake of his name (Acts 9:16). And the early Christians assembled in his name (1 Cor. 5:4). In all these acts the name refers to the Son of God as he has been revealed to our race: in his authority and power, and through the message of his gospel. It is in this sense that, truly, we “may have life” in his name (John 20:31), and at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10).

This language is taken up by hymnwriters. Charles Wesley said that Jesus is the “name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease. ‘Tis music in the sinner’s ear, ‘tis life and health and peace.” John Newton also described the name of Jesus as sweet music in the final stanza of this hymn, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”:

Weak is the effort of my heart, and cold my warmest thought;

But when I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought.
Till then I would Thy love proclaim with every fleeting breath,

And may the music of Thy Name refresh my soul in death!

Both of these men are telling us that the contemplation of Christ’s lordship and gospel is like the act of listening to music. More than that, they are saying that the name of Jesus is itself sweet music. It is more soothing than any song, more sublime than any symphony, more powerful than any piece of music ever composed. Jesus! Those two syllables contain more overtones than all the harmony in human history or in heaven. Jesus! How sweet the name!

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear!

It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear.
It makes the wounded spirit whole, and calms the troubled breast;

‘Tis manna to the hungry soul, and to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build, My Shield and Hiding Place,

My never-failing treasury, filled with boundless stores of grace!
Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend; O Prophet, Priest and King,

My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, accept the praise I bring.

The musical setting we are using on Sunday is fairly new and was written by British songwriter and worship leader Chris Bowater. Chris is the co-founder of Worship Academy International and is Senior Pastor of New Life Church Ministries in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, UK.

Scripture References:
Vs. 1 – Acts 4:12, Jer.30:17, Rom. 10:13, Joel 2:32, 1 John 4:18, Ps.147:3
Vs. 2 – John 16:20, John 6:31-33, Matt. 11:28
Vs. 3 – John 10:11, John 15:13-14, John 4:19, John 14:6, Heb.4:14, Rev. 17:14