Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"To show God's love aright she bore to us a Savior."

Carol: "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" - 15th Century German

We are in the season of Advent. In most of our churches, we will light candles each week as we make our way from darkness to light… make that to THE Light! Choirs will process, lessons supporting each week’s theme will be read from the Old and New Testaments -- and someone needs to stand and say “Let the anticipation begin!” (Okay, yes: I saw  THE HUNGER GAMES film series and read the books!)

If no one at your church makes that proclamation in the service, say it to yourself… on this and every day from now until Christmas Eve. Anticipation is a great motivator… and not just with ketchup bottles!

In this wonderful, beautiful fifteenth century hymn set to a sixteenth century tune, we find today’s hymnline. She (Mary) brought forth her Son in order to show God’s love appropriately – showing fallen humankind how God’s love acts! Like the rest of us, she couldn’t make that kind of exposure on her own. You and I are called to show God’s love aright, also. No archangel showed up at the foot of our bed, but a messenger of God – his Spirit – came and set us onto the path toward kindness, compassion, mercy… and, of course, love.

Though we don’t bring Christ into the world physically as Mary did, we DO display him through our lives to people who walk in darkness – when half-spent is their night.

This Advent season, let’s set as one of our major goals showing God’s love aright – properly, authentically.

Let the anticipation begin.

Hear This Carol Sung by Atlanta Chorus Directed by Robert Shaw

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"We too should be voicing our love and devotion."

"We too should be voicing our love and devotion."
Hymn: “Let All Things Now Living” – Katherine K. Davis* (1892-1980)

This Thanksgiving hymn many of us sang recently opens with “Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving to God the Creator triumphantly raise.” I actually like to sing this hymn all year long, not just during the last week of November, because it is one of those hymns that beautifully describes God in poetry that is well-constructed.

After listing many of God’s creative, sustaining, redeeming works, today’s hymnline continues: “We too should be voicing our love and devotion, with glad adoration a song let us raise.”

We voice lots of songs and expressions of our love for God, but here we are called on to declare our devotion – our promise, our pledge, our guarantee.

Olivia Newton John had a hit song in 1978 titled “Hopelessly Devoted to You” (from GREASE). Most of us can hum it and at least sing the ‘hook’. For Christ-followers, however, we lift up our commitment to him singing “Hopefully Devoted to You.”

I also like the phrase “with glad adoration” – not coerced or forced, but gladly offered up. I am personally delighted to sing great hymns and songs of the faith… the ones that express my adoration of him who created, re-creates, sustains and redeems me. I know I am not alone in that; otherwise, you would probably not be reading this blog.

This week, of all weeks, we SHOULD be voicing our love and devotion with glad adoration. Sometimes I encourage us to internalize concepts; this time, let’s verbalize them… voice them… even to strangers.

Hear This Hymn Sung

Hear Children’s Chime Choir Play This Hymn (directed by Jeff Reeves)

*PS – Katherine K. Davis was also a composer of wonderful church music and is best known for her Christmas Song “The Little Drummer Boy.”

“And guide us when perplexed.”

Hymn: “Now Thank We All Our God” – Martin Rinkart (1586-1649)

“Unable to understand something clearly or to think clearly.” So says Merriam-Webster as to the meaning of perplexed. Surface perplexity happens to most of us regularly if not constantly: we are baffled by technology, by science, by the way humans treat humans in traffic or at the shopping mall. God’s guidance out of the simplest lack of understanding or clarity is a good thing to desire, but here I think the hymn-writer was after a deeper, more profound uncertainty… even one which becomes for us a state of mind.

An old gospel song says it like this:
    Trials dark on every hand,
    And we cannot understand
    All the ways that God would lead us
    To that blessed promised land;
    But he guides us with his eye,
    And we'll follow till we die,
    We will understand it better by and by.

It boils down to that I-just-don’t-get-it place in our thinking. A deeper lack of understanding. We are truly puzzled by the way our life is going. We seem to ask “Why?” more often than wish we did. We join the Children of Israel traipsing through the wilderness, for the most part following Moses’ directions and leadership, yet always wondering… to the point of complaining and wanting to give up.

This one-line prayer “Guide us when perplexed” gets at this shared human problem. The puzzlement is common to all of us; the way we handle it varies. But looking to God for guidance, even when we are totally confounded with our “why list,” will set us apart from other wondering wanderers. After all, it’s a wilderness out there.

Puzzled? Baffled? Confounded? Unsure? Me, too. I am, however, confident that with God’s good guidance “we will understand it better by and by.” For that, we can be thankful.

The MTC Sings John Rutter’s Arrangement of This Hymn

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Who, from our mother's arms, hath blessed us on our way."

Hymn: “Now Thank We All Our God” – Martin Rinkhart (1586-1649)

It’s a week from Thanksgiving, so it seems right that we turn our attention toward hymnlines from hymns we typically associate with this American holiday.

Our God “who, from our mother’s arms, hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”

"Migrant Mother" Dorothea Lange
Generally speaking, our mothers are our original caretakers. Good mothers become for their children the very representation of who God is and how he treats us. This hymnline helps us get that perspective, reminding us that from our first breath, God has blessed us with innumerable  love-gifts… and those love-gifts continue, no matter how many years we may be removed from those mother-cuddled hours.

We believers are richly blessed as we make our way through life. (We’ll deal with “Count Your Blessings” later this week.) The danger is that we might begin to consider our blessings as routine, not noticing the little things with which God seasons our life.

On next Thursday, most of us will have some of the richest, best-seasoned dishes we’ll have all year long. Those old family recipes on grease-spotted note cards seem to hold back nothing from the spice rack when it comes to food preparations for this holiday. Even then, we’ll think to ourselves, “This tastes so much better than food tastes throughout the rest of the year,” but we’ll likely give any thought to WHY that is true.

Let’s not overlook those blessings with which our God spices up our life… those small zests added to our mundane existence. We cannot truly be a blessing to others until we realize how blessed we are.

NOW, let’s all thank our God with hearts and souls and voices! NOW!

Sing along with this hymn

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

There Is a Balm

I've always loved this hymn and have found it a personal healing agent for me and for congregations.
However, what the second stanza in most every hymnal about preaching like Peter and Paul Never made sense in the context of the spiritual. So why not shake things up and alter some jots and tittles in hymnody... and maybe help some rich, meaningful tunes and texts make more sense!?
As always - use and/or share.

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)