Monthly Archives: February 2014

Last Sunday of Epiphany – March 2 – The Transfiguration

transfiguration vision 


Prelude: Carolynn Baer, flute


And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.   Matthew 17:2


As we approach the dark themes of Lent, we hear one more time about the light of Christ – one of the great themes of the Epiphany season.  The disciples are confused when they see the dazzling transformation of Jesus and hear the voice of God telling them to “listen to him.”   In this hymn, we (the disciples) ask Jesus to be a different kind of vision in our lives.  But several of the phrases from the hymn remind me of the passage from Matthew:


Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.


The original words to the hymn date back to 6th Century Ireland, and to the Irish writer Dallan Forgaill, whose nickname, Dallán (“little blind one”), was supposedly earned after he lost his sight.  Some say that his zealousness for writing poetry and studying led to his blindness. I wonder if his blindness might have been the inspiration for the words of this hymn (though I couldn’t find anything to substantiate this).  The words are typical of Irish theology, in which God is invited into every part of life: waking, sleeping, thinking, speaking…


The tune to this ancient hymn is “Slane”, from an 8th Century Irish melody. The melody is named after Slane Hill – and an event that happened near there around AD 433. Tradition has it that the ruling King Logaire had decreed that no one was allowed to light a fire until he had lit his to announce the start of the pagan spring festival. However, St Patrick defied the royal order and lit candles on the Eve of the festival on Tara Hill (about ten miles from Slane Hill). The King was so impressed by Patrick’s defiance that he pardoned him and allowed him to continue his missionary work.


Carolyn Baer, flutist, and I hope you will reflect on this hymn (found on page 339 in The Presbyterian Hymnal) as we play the prelude Sunday.


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7th Sunday of Epiphany – February 23 Love and Vanity


(Hymn 335, The Presbyterian Hymnal)

One of the most quoted New Testament texts is Paul’s writing about love in I Corinthians 13. Sunday’s gospel from the Sermon on the Mount, however, is the inspiration for including this hymn in Sunday’s worship.  Notice the parallels between Jesus’ words and Paul’s words:


Though I may speak

Matthew 5:43,44; 46,47

“You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Now look at the text of the hymn:

Though I may speak with bravest fire,
And have the gift to all inspire,
And have not love, my words are vain,
As sounding brass, and hopeless gain.

Though I may give all I possess,
And striving so my love profess,
But not be given by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.

Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed;
By this we worship, and are freed.

Hal Hopson’s text has become one of the most popular late 20th-century hymns.  Hopson is a composer and church musician with over 1000 published works. With a special interest in congregational song, he has made a significant contribution to the new hymns included in modern hymnals.

Hopson’s cantata, God with Us, was one of the few compositions selected to be placed in a time capsule during the American Bicentennial in 1976. The capsule will be opened in 2076, and will be heard again as a representative piece of American choral composition of this century.

The tune, O WALY WALY, is a traditional English melody associated with the song “O Waly, Waly, gin love be bony,” dating to at least the early 1700s.


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The Church’s one foundation

index6th Sunday of Epiphany – February 16


The Church’s one foundation (Hymn 442)



  “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.  

Ephesians 2:19-20


Hymns can be a powerful means of teaching. All throughout history, God’s people have used songs to teach. We can see this as early as Exodus 15 where Moses records the song Israel sang after crossing the Red Sea. It taught everyone who heard and sang it about God’s great act of delivering his people. What did these songs we sang as children teach us?


“This Little Light of Mine”

“The B-I-B-L-E”

“Jesus Loves Me”


The Rev. Samuel John Stone, a curate in the small town of Windsor, England, recognized the effectiveness of singing as a teaching tool.  In 1866, when he was only 27, he wrote Lyra Fidelium: 12 hymns on the 12 articles of the Apostles’ Creed.  With each hymn he included a short “summary of truths confessed,” along with a list of the Scripture passages supporting it. He hoped these hymns would help people better comprehend the creed that they often recited but seldom understood.  He also hoped they would support the conservative side of the controversy that was rocking the church at that time (you can read about that controversy at


 “The Church’s One Foundation” is the best known of the hymns in this collection. Louis Benson, in his Studies of Familiar Hymns, quotes one English archbishop as saying that “wherever he was called upon to open or dedicate a church, he could always count on two things—cold chicken and ‘The Church’s one Foundation’.”  Benson describes this hymn as embodying “practically every doctrine concerning the church.”  See if you can connect any of these words and phrases with the creed or with scripture:


Stanza 1: The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her and for her life He died.


Stanza 2: Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses, partakes one Holy Food,
And to one Hope she presses, with every grace endued.


Stanza 3: Though with a scornful wonder this world sees her oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping, Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song!


Stanza 4: ’Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.


Stanza 5: Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won,
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with Thee.


The tune “AURELIA,” meaning “gold,” was written by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, an English organist and composer and the grandson of Charles Wesley. Published in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1868), the tune has come to be known almost exclusively with “The Church’s One Foundation.”


Easter Cantata Rehearsals Begin

February 12th @ 8:00

Come and sing in our Easter Cantata at 

Christ Presbyterian Church, Fairfax!

“Followers of the Lamb” rehearsals begin Feb 12

Wednesdays from 8:00 – 8:45pm.

All are welcome.























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5th Sunday of Epiphany – February 9 Salt & Light

salt & light Light of Mine (Anthem)

Bring Forth the Kingdom (Hymn 2190, Sing the Faith)


Jesus said, “  You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world…”

from Matthew 5:13-20


In the book of John, chapter 8, Jesus calls himselfthe light of the world: 


“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  


In Sunday’s verses from Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the light of the world. 


These ostensibly paradoxical teachings are both present in Sunday’s anthem, “Light of Mine” by Pepper Choplin.  The Children’s Choir sings “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” superimposed on the Chancel Choirs’ “the Lord is my light…” from Psalm 27.  Maybe it makes more sense if we see ourselves with the light of Christ in us, and reflect that light in the world.


In his hymn, “Bring forth the Kingdom,” Marty Haugen takes his text right out of Matthew, and expands on the themes of salt and light.  While the hymn appears in the Social Witness section of Sing the Faith, I think it belongs more appropriately in the Discipleship section or the Called to God’s Mission section.


Stanza 1:

You are salt for the earth, O people, salt for the city of God!

Share the flavor of life, O people: life in the kingdom of God!


Salt is defined as an element that gives liveliness, piquancy, or pungency.  In ancient times, salt was extremely valuable as a preservant, and, in some cultures, nearly worth its weight in gold.  Salt was so important that Roman soldiers of Jesus’ day were at times paid with salt. In fact, our word “salary” comes from the Latin word salarium which referred to the payments to the soldiers with salt.


Stanza 2:

You are a light on the hill, O people, light for the city of God!

Shine so holy and bright, O people: shine for the kingdom of God!


We have that light shining through our lives if our actions reflect Christ’s love, compassion, and forgiveness. The light shines through in our attitudes, words, and deeds.


 ”  You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

from Matthew 5:13-20

The church season of Epiphany starts on January 6, and lasts until Ash Wednesday.  The music 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, the Lamb of God, and the call of the disciples.  Last week (Beatitudes) and this week (salt & light) we turn to the Sermon on the Mount.


Come and sing in our Easter Cantata!  “Followers of the Lamb” rehearsals begin February 12, Wednesdays from 8:00 – 8:45pm.  All are welcome.


















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