24 June 2012
II Corinthians 6.1–13
Introit hymn 372
‘Praise to the living God!’
[Yigdal elochim chai]
ver. Daniel ben Judah Dayan
after Moses Maimonides
tr. Max Landsberg and Newton M. Mann
Hebrew melody, c.17?
harm. Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1875
Psalm 107.1–3, 23–32
Give thanks to the Lord,
whose mercies endure for ever.
Sequence hymn 699
‘Jesus, lover of my soul’
‘All things bright and beautiful’
Cecil Frances Alexander
‘How can I keep from singing’
arr. Russell Schulz
Communion hymns 889, 318
‘Blessed be the God of Israel’
Song of Zechariah (Luke 1.68–79)
para. Carl P. Daw, Jr
English melody, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams
¶ Tomorrow (transferred from today)
is the Feast of the Nativity of St John Baptist
‘Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face’
[‘This do in remembrance of me’]
Postcommunion hymn 559
‘Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us’
[‘Hymn, Written for the Children
of the London Orphan Asylum’]
mel. An Essay on the Church Plain Chant, 1782
adapt. Collection of Motetts or Antiphons, ca. 1840
harm. Wm. Henry Monk
I have a lovely Scherrenschnitt by Brother Martin Erspamer hanging on the wall next to my desk that illustrates Sunday’s Gospel lesson. This kind of art is delicately cut with a small scissors to highlight only the prominent matter in the work, in this case, three disciples in a small boat overwhelmed by waves. Jesus sits in the upturned prow and holds out his hand as the terrified disciples wonder whether they will make it. I love this study of the story because whenever I feel overwhelmed or distraught I’m reminded that nothing overwhelms God and we are part of a larger scheme of things than our momentary problems may allow.
Sometimes in the face of danger, trouble or doubt, we may like to sing our fears away. Sunday’s music allows us to do that in interesting ways.
The Introit hymn, ‘Praise to the living God’, is a bold text set to a strong Hebrew melody, ‘Leoni’. The great medieval philosopher Maimonides is himself credited with the original version of this text. What could be more empowering than a line like ‘His love shall be our strength and stay while ages roll’!
Sometimes we need text and tune less strident, and words like those of the Sequence hymn comfort us:
while the nearer waters roll,
while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
till the storm of life is past...
Who but Charles Wesley, the most prolific of English poets, could master this much-loved text? ‘Jesus, lover of my soul’ is a favorite of both children and grandparents. Interestingly, Charles’s brother, John, rejected the text as too sentimental, but as with Romanticism overthrowing the Enlightenment in philosophic circles, sometimes our emotions, not just our intellect, need to be addressed. Set to the Welsh tune ‘Aberystwyth’ the text is allowed to roll with waves and land us safely on the shore. Composed by William Perry, a professor at the University of Wales in Swansea, the music has a more confident, almost stoic pace, than the more sentimental tunes to which the text is often sung.
The Postcommunion hymn, ‘Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us’, captures well the spirit of the Gospel text:
Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
O’er the world’s tempestuous sea;
Guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
For we have no help but thee.
As Friedrich Schleiermacher put it in his famous reaction to the Enlightenment, the essence of Christian faith is dependence. James Edmeston, born in Wapping, close to the Thames, knew something of this dependence, living near the sea where the challenges to sailors heading to unpredictable storms were clear to all. Raised in a small evangelical church, he changed his membership to the Church of England because he loved its heritage of liturgy and poetic texts in hymnody. He himself wrote over 2,000 hymn texts, this being one of the most popular.