Sunday 12 July 2015
The Gospel readings for this Sunday are about John the Baptist, who died speaking for the truth. The New Testament reading is from Ephesians and is about the grace and blessings given to us by Christ.
Our first hymn is to the well-known tune, “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In case you don’t know it, the tune is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wod-MudLNPA. You could also listen to one of the many “flash mob” versions on Youtube, like this one here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbJcQYVtZMo. Those flash mobs look like such a lot of fun!
The words focus us on God’s word, love and hope which have called us to live by grace for others. This hymn is from the “Gathering” section of the new version of Hymns Ancient and Modern, and prepares us for the worship service ahead:
Living God, your word has called us,
summoned us to live by grace,
make us one in hope and vision,
as we gather in this place.
Take our searching, take our praising,
take the silence of our prayer,
offered up in joyful worship,
springing from the love we share.
Living God, your love has called us
in the name of Christ your Son,
forming us to be his body,
by your Spirit making one.
Working, laughing, learning, growing,
old and young and black and white,
gifts and skills together sharing,
in your service all unite.
Living God, your hope has called us
to the world that you have made,
teaching us to live for others,
humble, joyful, unafraid.
Give us eyes to see your presence,
joy in laughter, hope in pain.
In our loving, in our living,
give us strength that Christ may reign.
For the Gradual hymn, we sing one of my (many!) favourites: “Spirit of God, unseen as the wind”. The tune is a Scottish folk melody, Skye Boat Song, lovely music with a gentle lilting rhythm. You can listen to it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qxfqdPFyaI where it’s sung by the amazing Nana Mouskouri with spectacular visual accompaniment.
The words call on the Spirit to touch us, help us believe and show us the Saviour’s love as we listen to the Gospel reading:
Spirit of God, unseen as the wind,
gentle as is the dove,
teach us the truth and help us believe,
show us the Saviour’s love.
You spoke to us long, long ago,
gave us the written word;
we read it still, needing its truth,
through it God’s voice is heard.
Without your help we fail our Lord,
we cannot live his way;
we need your power, we need your strength,
following Christ each day.
For the Offertory hymn, we focus on God speaking through the prophets, as indeed God spoke through John the Baptist and continues to speak through the prophets:
God has spoken — by his prophets,
spoken his unchanging word;
each from age to age proclaiming
God the one, the righteous Lord;
in the world’s despair and turmoil
one firm anchor holds us fast:
God eternal reigns for ever,
God the first and God the last.
God has spoken — by Christ Jesus,
Christ, the everlasting Son;
brightness of the Father’s glory,
with the Father ever one:
spoken by the Word incarnate,
Life, before all time began,
Light of Light, to earth descending,
God, revealed as Son of Man.
God is speaking — by his Spirit
speaking to our hearts again;
in the ageless Word declaring
God’s own message, now as then.
Through the rise and fall of nations
one sure faith is holding fast:
God abides, his word unchanging,
God the first and God the last.
The tune is Austria, well-known and sung to many hymns of the same meter, including “Glorious things of thee are spoken”. The tune was written by Franz Josef Haydn, one of the greatest classical composers and affectionately known as “Papa Haydn”. (As you can see from the photo here, he was reputed to have been rather mischievous as a child!) Haydn lived from 1732 to 1809 and, for most of his life, worked as the conductor of a private orchestra owned by the rich and powerful Esterhazy family of Eisenstadt in Austria. Listen to this recording of Austria, sung in Korean by a huge congregation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLiqi_XJzzw
The communion hymns for the 9.30 service start with “Oh, the mercy of God”. The words are almost an exact setting of the reading from Ephesians. This is the first time we’ve sung this tune, but it’s not at all difficult. Words and music are by Geoff Bullock (b 1956), an Australian song writer and pianist. Here is a recording of this song, with flute and voice, and some good scenery pics to go with it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZXl2Iw502A
Oh, the mercy of God, the glory of grace,
that you chose to redeem us, to forgive and restore,
and you call us your children, chosen in him
to be holy and blameless to the glory of God.
To the praise of his glorious grace,
to the praise of his glory and power;
to him be all glory, honour and praise
for ever and ever and ever, amen.
Oh, the richness of grace, the depths of his love,
in him is redemption, the forgiveness of sin.
You called us as righteous, predestined in him
for the praise of his glory, included in Christ.
Oh, the glory of God expressed in his Son,
his image and likeness revealed to us all;
the plea of the ages completed in Christ,
that we be presented perfected in him.
The second communion hymn is a more traditional, “Come thou fount of every blessing”, sung to the tune Nettleton. This is the story of Robert Robinson (1735-1790), who wrote the words:
Robert Robinson (1735-1790) was eight years old at the time of his father’s death. He was a very bright, headstrong boy who became increasingly more difficult for his mother to handle. When Robert turned 14, she sent him to London for an apprenticeship with a barber. Robert proceeded to get into even more trouble, taking on a life of drinking and gambling.
At 17, Robert and some of his drinking buddies decided to attend an evangelistic meeting, with a plan to make fun of the proceedings. When George Whitfield began to preach, Robert felt as if the sermon was just for him. He did not respond to the altar call that night, but the words of the evangelist would haunt him for the next three years.
On 10 December, 1755, at age 20, Robert finally yielded his life to Christ, and very soon thereafter answered a call to the ministry. Three years later, as he was preparing to preach a sermon at the Calvinist Methodist Chapel in Norfolk, England, Robert wrote Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing to complement his sermon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPKpkrqBwNs
This is a recording of the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the tune, Nettleton:
Come, thou fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy never ceasing
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious measure
sung by flaming tongues above;
O the vast, the boundless treasure
of my Lord’s unchanging love!
Here I find my greatest treasure:
hither by thy help I’ve come,
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
take my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it from thy courts above!
The final communion hymn is a South African one, “Thuma Mina”. This very simple song is beautifully sung here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eik2HK7u9xA. The words mean “Send me Lord, I agree Lord, thank you Lord”.
Thuma mina (x3)
Both services will end with another one of my favourites: “My life flows on in endless song”, written by Robert Lowry and Doris Plenn after an early Quaker song, and sung to a traditional American melody. It’s sung here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BifkC92nT8.
My life flows on in endless song
above earth’s lamentation:
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that sings a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging;
since love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear that music ringing;
it finds an echo in my soul;
how can I keep from singing?
What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth!
What though the darkness round me close?
Songs in the night he giveth.
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
a fountain ever springing.
All things are mine since I am his!
How can I keep from singing?
Blessings and good things and see you Sunday!