Liturgy Lesson: March 29th, 2020
Call to Worship: Ps. 125:1-2, Ps. 121; Ps. 124:8
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Adoration: Our Great God
Confession of Sin: Matt. 8:23-27 and prayer
Assurance of Pardon: Zeph. 3:14-17; Ps. 28:6-9
Hymn of Assurance: How Firm a Foundation
Heidelberg Catechism Q1
Sermon: Rev. Eric Irwin (from Hebrews 11)
Supper: Christ is Mine Forevermore; Abide with Me
Closing: O God, Our Help in Ages Past
“By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”
– Psalm 137
Today, by the piano in the sanctuary, I sat down and wept when I remembered our gathered worship. On the pew, there I hung my head. For we are captive in our homes, tormented by an invisible enemy, and how shall we sing the Lord’s song together when we are each in exile? In the coming weeks, if I forget the Lord’s house, let my right hand forget its skill! Let the tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember and set His dwelling place, our sanctuary, as my highest joy!
But that joy is gone during these days. In its place is an empty longing. The sanctuary is deserted, and my soul is parched.
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
– Psalm 42
It has now been three weeks since we’ve had a full worship service at church, and it may be many more until we are once again the “multitude keeping festival.” I implore you to not forget the sound of the throng and the taste of the feast. We should remember those glad shouts and songs of praise, the mutual outpouring of our souls in the Lord’s house. May we thirst for those flowing streams that come from the altar (Ez. 47) and hunger for the place where “everlasting love displays the choicest of her stores” (Isaac Watts). Let us endure and put our hope in God; for we shall again praise him. He is our salvation and our God.
To encourage your heart, and to help you remember the joy of our gatherings, we have archived some hymns from past services on the church website. Here is the full-throated CPC rendition of “The Church’s One Foundation” from July 29, 2018. How heartening it was for me to hear us all sing phrases like “soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song” and “‘mid toil and tribulation and tumult she waits the consummation of peace.” Listen and hum along. This is us reminding ourselves of “that vision glorious” where one day “the church victorious shall be the church at rest.” May you find strength and delight in hearing this beautiful declaration. Though we are all isolated, we “have union with God the Three in one, and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is one!”
I think it is just so fitting that all of this has fallen to us during Lent. The liturgical color for Lent is violet/purple, which is used for two reasons: Firstly, it is associated with mourning and so anticipates the pain and suffering of the crucifixion, and secondly, it is the color of royalty, and celebrates Christ’s resurrection and sovereignty. The word Corona is Latin for ‘crown.’ We would do well in the pain of this Corona moment to listen first and often to Creation’s King, who holds the universe together with the word of His power. Part of the problem of being quarantined at home in the age of wireless internet is that our laptops are open more than our Bibles. The perspective of things as seen through a 13½-inch screen is just so limited. We should close Facebook and open the Faithbook. The Word of power that sustains the universe speaks to us in those pages. Spending time there can be like gazing through the Hubble telescope. It broadens our perspective and lifts us up and out of our own pity and myopia. It may be that our attempts to cope and continue in our small context are secondary to God’s global plan in all this. What if this is His way to bring repentance and revival to the world, to call back to Himself a prodigal people?
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
– Rev. 2:3-5
The Potter’s formative hands are currently pressing and shaping the world. He made it, He holds it, and He sustains it. All over the Old Testament we see the pattern of the Lord’s loving discipline with His people. Watch closely and you will notice a constant dance of chastisement and comfort, wrath and mercy, destruction and deliverance. Can we consider that this pandemic may be his instrument to bring the proudest civilization in history to a place of humility? What if after all this is over, our churches are fuller than ever? Will the deaths of some mean the salvation of countless others? And who can fathom the reality that God measures all of this as but one grain of sand dropping through his eternal hourglass?
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
– Romans 11:33-36
Abide With Me
Text: Henry Francis Lyte, 1847
Music: EVENTIDE, William Henry Monk, 1861
Scripture References: st. 1 = Luke 24:29, Ps. 27:9 st. 2 = James 1:17, Ps. 102:26-27 st. 3 = Rom. 16:20 st. 4 = Ps. 27:1, 1 Cor. 15:55 st. 5 = 2 Pet. 1:19
Henry Francis Lyte was an Anglican minister who was also a celebrated poet. His three most beloved hymns are “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven,” “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken,” and “Abide with Me.” It is this last one that has had the most enduring and popular appeal in both the church and broader culture. This hymn is generally considered a prayer for God to abide with the individual throughout life, through trials, and through death. The opening line alludes to Luke 24:29 “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent,” and the penultimate verse draws on text from 1 Cor. 15:55 “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”. If we look closer, we will see that this hymn carries a timely message for us during the Coronavirus moment.
For most of his life Lyte suffered from poor health, and he would regularly travel for medical reasons. The real story of this hymn is that it was written in the face of death. The first seeds of the hymn were planted when Henry Lyte was visiting a dying friend. As Lyte sat bedside, the sick man kept repeating the phrase “Abide With Me…”. Some years later, Lyte felt his own end approaching at the age of 54, when he developed tuberculosis. His daughter, Anna Maria Maxwell Hogg, recounts the story of how “Abide with Me” came out of that context:
“The summer was passing away, and the month of September (that month in which he was once more to quit his native land) arrived, and each day seemed to have a special value as being one day nearer his departure. His family were surprised and almost alarmed at his announcing his intention of preaching once more to his people. His weakness and the possible danger attending the effort, were urged to prevent it, but in vain. ‘It was better,’ as he used to say often playfully, when in comparative health, ‘to wear out than to rust out.’ He felt that he should be enabled to fulfil his wish, and feared not for the result. His expectation was well founded. He did preach, and amid the breathless attention of his hearers, gave them a sermon on the Holy Communion … In the evening of the same day he placed in the hands of a near and dear relative the little hymn, ‘Abide with Me,’ with an air of his own composing, adapted to the words.”
Just weeks later, on 20 November 1847 in Nice, Lyte died. The hymn was sung for the very first time at Lyte’s funeral. A big reason for the lasting appeal of this hymn is the graceful melody written by William Henry Monk, who professed to have knocked it out in about 10 minutes. As the story goes, Monk was attending a hymnal committee meeting for the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern of which he was music editor. Realizing that this text had no tune, Monk sat down at the piano and composed EVENTIDE. The hymn was then published in that edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The music has always been associated with this text. It is a marvelous and elegant tune that captures the resignation and desperation of a soul clinging to its savior.
Christ is Mine Forevermore
Words and Music by Jonny Robinson and Rich Thompson
Here is a Psalm-like new hymn from the folks down at City Alight in Australia. This is the same team that gave us “Yet Not I, but Through Christ in Me” that we have sung several times at CPC. The melody is very simple and easy to pick up and follow. The lyrics are a beautiful poem about the all-sufficiency of Christ. He walks with us through all our numbered days. He picks us up when we fall, wipes away our tears, and arms us for every battle. He fills us with hope, peace, and strength, so that in every circumstance in life, we can confidently say, “Christ is mine forevermore.” The final refrain invites us to rejoice in Him alone because “fear is gone, and hope is sure.” Good words for us to sing during these turbulent days.
Songs like this remind us that we serve the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1).
In an article from mediagratiae.org called “The unassembled church”, Jeffrey Johnson (pastor at Grace Bible Church in Arkansas) provides some biblical perspective on who we are in Christ and how we can embody him during this pandemic. His prayerful words echo the thoughts expressed in this hymn.
“As the fear of death spreads, this is a time to remember that life is not our own and this world is not our home. May this virus lead to death—that is death to self. During these days, may we pick up our cross, crucify ourselves so that the life in Christ may be lived through us. May we see what is important. May we see the vanity of this world and inwardly sense that our life does not consist in the abundance of things we possess (Luke 12:15). What matters in life is not what we can buy and hoard, but what we can share and give away. And our most valuable possession that is ours to offer is the hope we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ!”