Liturgy Lesson: November 24, 2019
Call to Worship: Psalm 107:1-15
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Adoration: We Come, O Christ to You (#181)
Confession: Based on Heb. 7:25-27 and 1 Jn. 2:1-2
Song of Confession: Agnus Dei (“Jesus Lamb of God”)
Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 1:18 and Micah 7:18-19
Hymn of Assurance: Whiter Than Snow
Reading of the Word: Luke 13:31-35
Sermon: Rev. Eric Irwin
Tithes and Offerings
The Lord’s Supper: Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted (#257); Wonderful, Merciful Savior
Closing Hymn: Crown Him With Many Crowns (#295)
“And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
– Col. 3:16-17
Let’s do a little exegesis of this biblical passage, shall we? I’ll keep it simple, since this is really my first attempt at expository preaching. The best way I know how to do this is to ask a question, and then let the Bible answer it for us. Ok, here goes.
What word appears three times in these few verses, and what does that imply?
Thankfulness. Starts with “be thankful,” then encourages us to sing “with thankfulness in our hearts,” and ends by saying that all of it is “giving thanks to God”.
What is the purpose of singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?
To let the word of Christ dwell in us.
In what manner should it dwell?
Ok. So, what I hear the text saying is this. When singing, we are to inhale and exhale thankfulness, and in so doing we are to allow the whole gospel story of Christ’s identity and redemptive mission to take root in our hearts, to become incarnate there, and to dwell in all its glory, beauty, and richness. We are to let the word of Christ hold full sway over us. Let it abide in all its abundance, let it hole up and lodge in our hearts. If I were to put all this in a pithy and poetic pill, I would say that singing is a habit through which Christ inhabits us.
Thus ends the shortest sermon ever.
Now, onto the content of our songs. What you will notice about this week’s liturgy is that Jesus is the subject and center of every single hymn we are singing. Each hymn, in its own way, focuses on Jesus as Creator, Sustainer, Mediator, Savior, Redeemer, and Lord. This is all designed to encourage a dialogue with Him, through which we are reminded, refreshed, and renewed in His covenant of grace with us.
This is precisely why we call our enactment of the weekly liturgy a church “service.” As early as the year 1100, the word ‘service’ was used to define the celebration of public worship, and it comes from the Old French servise (act of homage; servitude; service at table; Mass, church ceremony). But it also has roots in the Latin servitium (slavery, condition of a slave, servitude). Put these together and we understand that in our ceremony we gather to receive and respond to Christ’s “service” to us. He summons us before His presence to bestow upon us His gifts and graces in Word and Sacrament. In response to His service to us, we render thanksgiving to Him in our order of service. Our liturgy is therefore this beautiful, mutual, covenantal activity of Christ serving us and our serving Him. Put in tennis jargon, this means that Christ always holds serve (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
May you be blessed in this week’s dialogue with your Savior. May you sing with thankfulness in your heart, and may that heart be a ready and welcome dwelling place for the word of Christ. He is worthy of all our devotion, affection, and praise!
Disclaimer: Super busy week for me, and so I’m re-posting previous write-ups on both of the hymns below. My excuse is that these hymns are so awesome that the info and content justifies the repetition.
Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
Words: Thomas Kelly, 1804
Music: O MEIN JESU, ICH MUSS STERBEN, Geistliche Volkslieder, 1850
Thomas Kelly (1769-1855) grew up as an Irish Catholic. As a young man he studied law and theology, but later turned to ministry in the Anglican Church. He was incredibly fiery and fervent as a preacher (this spirit exudes from his hymns), and was so popular and controversial that the Anglican bureaucracy prohibited his preaching in official churches. Kelly had a passion for the poor, and served tirelessly during the great Irish famine of 1845-49. He was a prodigious and prolific preacher and writer, finding time in a ministry of almost 60 years to write over 750 hymns.
Thomas Kelly has a handful of hymns in the Trinity hymnal, and among them is our Pastor Eric’s favorite hymn, “Look, Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious.” But perhaps Kelly’s greatest hymn of them all is “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted.” There are many hymns that proclaim Christian doctrine clearly and explicitly, but not many that do while maintaining a high poetic standard. This hymn is not pedantic. It is dramatic, but not sentimental. The hymn takes its title from the iconic passage in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah that vividly depicts the Suffering Messiah. I imagine that Thomas Kelly found much to resonate with in the writings of Isaiah. Many biblical scholars say that Isaiah’s style of writing reveals a well-educated background. There is great expressive versatility and brilliant use of imagery that makes the entire book of Isaiah an absolute masterpiece. I especially love the use of metaphor and hyperbole. The book of Isaiah is embroidered with such passion, and Thomas Kelly captures this rhetoric with his hymn. In the first three verses, he gives us striking and sobering unveilings of the nature of Christ, the cross, and the nature of sin itself. Then, he offers up this final stanza:
Here we have a firm foundation; here the refuge of the lost;
Christ, the rock of our salvation, His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded who on Him their hope have built.
In this brief summary of the law and the gospel we find echoes of two other famous hymns. Do you see them? It is unlikely that Kelly took the start of his final verse from “How Firm a Foundation” (written in America in 1787), but what is often said about our twin boys could apply here, “the resemblance is uncanny.” There is also the possibility that the end of this verse was the inspiration for another great American hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” which was written thirty years later in 1834. Here we have a hymn that serves as an axis for past and future hymnwriters. And the hymn itself commemorates the cross by pondering that holy hinge upon which all history turned from darkness to light, from the grave to glory.
The tune that carries this text is an anonymous German folk tune in revised bar form (AABA), a common song structure for many hymns. It is simple, bowing its head in minor mode for most of the time, but gently lifting at moments for glimmers of hope, particularly in the third phrase that takes us ever so briefly into the relative major key.
This is a musical reminder that all this suffering is laced with great joy. The cross has a purpose: the glory of Christ and the redemption of His bride. He makes all things new and by his stripes we are healed.
Crown Him With Many Crowns
Text: Matthew Bridges (1851)
Tune: DIADEMATA, George Elvey (1868)
Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake my soul, and sing of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
I think that Matthew Bridges would have made a great surgeon. He writes with precision and urgency. His phrase ‘awake my soul and sing of him who died for thee’ (one of my favorite in all hymnody) seems to be the poets attempt at a sort of spiritual CPR to revive the slumbering soul. His desire was to resist lethargy and encourage the ecstatic praise worthy of the resurrection. This resplendent hymn celebrates the risen and glorified Christ, the matchless one whose glory is unchanging. This is the “Potentate of Time” who truly is “ineffably sublime” (is there a better combination of words in all of hymnody?)!
Matthew Bridges published two small volumes of hymns, Hymns of the Heart (1847) and The Passion of Jesus (1852). “Crown Him With Many Crowns” was published in the second edition of Hymns of the Heart in 1851. Above the original stanzas was the Latin title “In capite ejus, diamemata multa…” in reference to the passage in the book of Revelations:
“The rider of the white horse, his eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself.” (Rev. 19:12)
The title of this hymn alone is a profound declaration that Christ is many things, and everything. He is Lord of all! Each individual verse of this hymn is its own coronation ceremony for aspects of Christ’s character. We are called to crown him Lord of life, Lord of love, Lord of years, Lord of peace, the Lamb upon the throne. Bridges’ original ode had eight stanzas, which have been trimmed to four for our hymnal. Were we to dedicate a verse to every facet of Christ’s prismatic prestige, the couplets would number in the thousands, and our hymnal would be too heavy to hold. Nonetheless, the verses we sing pack quite a punch, rousing us to praise the all-encompassing and all-conquering Champion over death and hell.
The tune for this hymn is a stirring and masterfully march-like melody that propels forward in each measure. It is an infectious and joyful tune that spills over with delight. I especially love the momentum in the 3rd phrase (“awake my soul and sing of him who died for thee”). It demands enthusiasm. The tune is named DIADEMATA, and was composed for this text by English organist and composer George J. Elvey. A prolific writer of church music, Elvey is also known by his tune ST. GEORGE’S WINDSOR (“Come, ye thankful people, come”). Bridges’ text and Elvey’s tune first appeared together in the Appendix to the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1868), and its future was secured. One-hundred and fifty years later, congregations across the world are still declaring the truth in song:
All Hail, Redeemer hail! For thou hast died for me;
Thy praise shall never, never fail throughout eternity.