Monthly Archives: January 2014

3rd Sunday of Epiphany: Follow Me: Questions and Answers?

 Question-Mark

Would I Have Answered When You Called?

(Hymn 2137, Sing the Faith)

 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”   Immediately they left their nets and followed him.  Matthew 4:19-20

 You can probably think of several hymns that begin with a question:

 

  • What Child is This?
  • Were You There?
  • Why Should I Feel Discouraged?

Here are some from secular music:

  • Do You Believe in Magic?
  • Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
  • How Much is That Doggy in the Window?
  • Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

But what about the answers?  Sometimes the answer comes right  after the question (What child is this…This, this is Christ the King; Why should I feel discouraged…his eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me).  Sometimes there is no answer (Were you there has only questions). 

In the hymn of the day for this Sunday,  Herman Stuempfle, hymnwriter, poses some wondering questions, some very hard questions.  The hymn is set to the poignant folk tune Kingsfold.

Stanza 1:Would I have answered when you called?  Would I at once have left behind both work and family?

Stanza 2: Would I have followed where you led…on roads unknown…beyond security?

Stanza 3: Would I have matched my step with yours when crowds cried “Crucify!”?

Instead of an easy answer, stanza 4 recognizes the difficulty we experience when faced with such questions:

 O Christ, I cannot search my heart through all its tangled ways,

     Nor can I with a certain mind my steadfastness appraise.

     I only pray that when you call, “Come, follow, follow me!”

     You’ll give me strength beyond my own to follow faithfully.

 

 

The church season of Epiphany starts on January 6, and lasts until Ash Wednesday.  The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek, and means “manifestation,” celebrating the revelation of God the Son as the light of the world.  The hymns of the season take us from Jesus’ childhood right up to the last week of his earthly life.  So far we’ve sung about the three kings, Jesus’ baptism, and the Lamb of God.  This week, Jesus calls the disciples.

 

 

 

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2nd Sunday of Epiphany – January 19: The Lamb of God

2nd Sunday of Epiphany – January 19:

The Lamb of God

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “

Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  John 1:29

agnus_VIII 

Most people in the church today are unlikely to bat an eye when they hear this passage read and hear the familiar phrase about Jesus being the “lamb of God.”  Agnus Dei (Greek for Lamb of God) has been set to music by many composers, generally as part of a communion setting. Yet John 1 is the only place in the entire Bible where it is used.  And John adds that somehow this particular lamb-like Jesus would “take away the sin of the world,” perhaps a foretelling of the sacrifice Jesus would make for us.

 

This Sunday, the choir will sing “O Lamb of God, Most Holy!” from the Hymnal #82.  It was written in 1541 by Nikolaus Decius, a German hymn-writer and composer.  Although a monk, he was attracted to Martin Luther and became part of the Protestant Reformation.  Shortly before his death he wrote the hymn “O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig” (O Lamb of God, innocent) paired with a tune he adapted from a 13th century plainsong melody.  Bach used Decius’s version in the opening chorus of his St. Matthew Passion.  Here is the text of the hymn, translated from the German by Arthur Tozer Russell:

 

O Lamb of God most holy!  Who on the cross did suffer,

And patient still and lowly, Yourself to scorn did offer;

Our sins by you were taken, or hope had us forsaken:

Have mercy on us, Jesus.  

 

 

During the coming weeks, we will explore other themes of the Epiphany season in the music of the church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Music of Epiphany January 12: The Baptism of Jesus

7166999-L And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

 

The church season of Epiphany starts on January 6, and lasts until Ash Wednesday.  The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek, and means “manifestation”, or “striking appearance,”  celebrating the revelation of God the Son as the light of the world. 

In the secular United States,  Epiphany is marked by great merriment, including

  • the Great Fruitcake Toss (Colorado) – a festive symbolic leave-taking of the Christmas holidays until next year, but with humorous twist;
  • the beginning  of the Carnival season leading up to Mardi Gras (Louisiana), during which many King Cakes are consumed;
  • 12th Night balls, dancing, parties and weddings (colonial Virginia)

 

The Christian season of Epiphany and its hymns cover the visit of the Magi, Jesus’ baptism, and Jesus’ ministry (calling of the disciples, teaching, and Transfiguration).  Last  Sunday, we sang of the three kings.  This week, we fast forward to Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. 

“Christ, When for Us You Were Baptized”

Following World War II, liturgical renewal was happening in the church. This text was written by Dr. F. Bland Tucker in response to the need for hymns on the topic of baptism.  It is rich in references to the Gospel narratives of the Baptism of the Lord.  The connection to our own baptism is also present in the 4th stanza: the marking on the forehead with the sign of the cross, and our covenant to seek and serve Christ in all people.

 1. Christ, when for us you were baptized, God’s Spirit on you came,

as peaceful as a dove and yet as urgent as a flame.

 

2. God called you the beloved Son, called you the servant true,

sent you the Kingdom to proclaim, God’s holy will to do.

 

3. Straightway and steadfast until death you then obeyed God’s call

freely as Child of God to serve and give your life for all.

 

4. Baptize us with your Spirit, God, Christ’s cross on us be signed,

that, likewise in your service we may perfect freedom find.

 

 For our hymnal, the text was paired with Caithness, one of the common tunes in the Scottish psalm book of 1635.   The tune was named after the remotest of Scottish counties, at the extreme northeastern tip of Scotland.  The melody is interesting: almost the whole of it consists of a four-note scale.

 

During the next few weeks, we will explore other aspects of the Epiphany season in the music of the church.

 

 

 

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