Monthly Archives: February 2016

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Guide-Me-O-Thou-Great-Jehovah.jpg-v1225534080-520x288Our Music This Sunday

 

“Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

William Williams, text; John Hughes, tune

 

 

For Thou art my rock and my fortress, therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.    

Psalm 31:3

 

Throughout the centuries, the Welsh people have been recognized as one of the most enthusiastic groups of singers in the world.  From the days of the Druids, Wales has been a land of song.  This hymn is a product of that musical heritage.

 

During the early 1700s, a young Welsh preacher, Howell Harris, was stirring Wales with his evangelistic preaching and congregational singing.  One of the lives touched by Harris’ preaching was William Williams.  Upon hearing a sermon by Harris, young Williams gave his heart and life to God, and changed his career plans from the medical profession to the ministry.  Like Harris, he decided to take all of Wales as his parish, and for the next forty-three years traveled nearly 100,000 miles on horseback, preaching and singing the gospel.  Though he endured many hardships, he became affectionately known as the “sweet singer of Wales.”  Although he was respected as a persuasive preacher, the major source of his influence was his hymns.  He wrote about 800 of them, most remaining untranslated; “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” is the only hymn for which he is widely known today.

 

The imagery in the hymn is drawn wholly from the Bible.  The hymn describes the experience of God’s people in their travel through the wilderness from the escape from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12-14), being guided by a cloud by day and a fire by night, (Exodus 13:17-22) to their final arrival forty years later in the land of Canaan (Joshua 3). During this time their needs were supplied by God, including the daily supply of manna, (Exodus 16).

 

The tune for this text, Cwm Rhondda, was written by John Hughes, a noted Welsh composer, for the annual singing festival in the Rhondda Valley in 1907.  The text with this tune is still one of the most popular and widely-used hymns in Wales.  It is not at all uncommon even today for a large crowd at a public event to burst into the spontaneous singing of this hymn.  It was sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.  It is featured prominently in the soundtrack to the 1941 film How Green Was My Valley, and also at the beginning of The African Queen , with Katharine Hepburn singing and playing the organ.

 

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In Our Music for Lent: “Thy Holy Wings”

 

“Thy Holy Wings”gathering

Swedish hymn

sung by the women of the choir

 

Last Sunday’s Psalm 91:4 says God shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you shall take refuge.  Ruth was referred to as a woman who had come under the Lord’s wings for refuge (Ruth 2:12).  Later, Ruth’s great-grandson, King David, asked the Lord in Psalm 17:8 to hide me under the shadow of your wings.  And in Psalm 57, David again says In the shadow of your wings I will make my refuge.

 

A thousand years later, David’s great descendent, Jesus, says in this Sunday’s gospel, Luke 13:34b, How often have I  desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 

 

All these word-pictures are woven together in “Thy Holy Wings,” a hymn that demonstrates the rich heritage of congregational song and folk music that Scandinavian Christians have given the world.  Karolina Sandell-Berg, the hymn’s author and a Swedish poet, grew up to become Sweden’s most celebrated author of gospel hymns, and wrote so many that she is often called “the Fanny Crosby of Sweden.”

Like many Christians, she learned that when pain and tragedy strike, God may use that experience to deepen our faith. When she was 26, Lina was with her father, a Lutheran pastor, crossing a Swedish lake. Suddenly the ship lurched, and before her eyes, her father was thrown overboard and drowned. Lina had written hymns before, but now she poured out her broken heart in an endless stream of beautiful songs.

The words of Lina Berg’s hymns were all the more popular because of the simple, beautiful melodies written for them, especially those of Oscar Ahnfelt, who played his guitar and sang her hymns throughout Scandanavia.  Lina Berg once said that Ahnfeld sang her songs “into the hearts of the people.”

Thy holy wings, O Savior, spread gently over me,
and let me rest securely through good and ill in thee.
O be my strength and portion, my rock and hiding place,
and let my every moment be lived within thy grace.

 

Thy pardon, Savior, grant me, and cleanse me in Thy blood;
give me a willing spirit, a heart both clean and good.
O take into Thy keeping Thy children great and small,
and while we sweetly slumber enfold us one and all.

 

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Hymn for a Day of Repentance

ash wednesday

According to The Presbyterian Mission Agency, Ash Wednesday is

  • …a day of mourning for our sin and the sin of all humanity before God,

  • …a recognition of our mortality save for the grace of God, and

  • …a request that the Lord remember our creation and breathe new life into our burned-out, dusty lives once more.

So our music for Ash Wednesday starts with a hymn of both repentance and supplication: confessing our sins, and asking God to make our lives new.

 

“Sunday’s Palms are Wednesday’s Ashes” 

(The title comes from the practice of burning the palms from the previous Palm Sunday

to create ashes for the next Ash Wednesday.)

 

This hymn is personal – we have sinned against God and our neighbor in many ways – but it is also corporate – we confess and repent not in isolation, but in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  After a litany of our sins, each stanza ends with our request:

 

Stanza 1 … now, returning, [we] seek forgiveness; grant us pardon, God, this day!

 

Stanza 2 … may the yielding of our failings be our Lenten offerings.

 

Stanza 3 … come and cleanse us, then restore us; make new hearts within us, Lord!

 

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February 10 at 6:30 pm

Soup & Bread meal, worship, imposition of ashes

 

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“Shine, Jesus, Shine”

light

 

“…and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun…”

Matthew 17:2

On Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday of Epiphany, a hymn about light seems appropriate. The term ‘epiphany’ means “to show” or “to make known or “a moment of sudden revelation or insight .”

 

“Shine, Jesus, Shine” is a modern-era hymn written in 1987 by Graham Kendrick. The song was voted tenth in a 2005 survey of the United Kingdom’s favorite hymns by the BBC. But according to Damian Thompson, editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald, the song is “the most loathed of all happy-clappy hymns.”

 

The hymn may be “happy-clappy” in some churches, but theologically, I’m not sure we can find fault with this text.

 

Stanza one is straight out of the gospel of John (chapter 8): Jesus is the Light of the world who sets us free by the truth.

Lord, the light of your love is shining; in the midst of the darkness, shining.
Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us. Set us free by the truth you now bring us.

 

Stanza two reflects on another common theme in the Bible: Jesus as light in our darkness (from John, Acts, Romans, Corinthians).

 

Lord, I come to your awesome presence; from the shadows into your radiance.
By the blood I may enter your brightness. Search me, try me, consume all my darkness.

The final stanza suggests how Christ’s light may be reflected in our lives.

As we gaze on your kingly brightness, so our faces display your likeness
ever changing from glory to glory. 
Mirrored here may our lives tell your story.

 

What do you think?

 

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easter

  … during 11am worship on March 27

 

Choir practice

Wednesdays NOW until Easter — 8:00 ’til 8:45

 

Come and Sing!

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                

 

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