Category Archives: Worship

Our Comfort

When in the hour of deepest need
We know not where to look for aid;
When days and nights of anxious thought
No help or counsel yet have brought,

Our comfort then is this alone:
That we may meet before your throne
And cry to you, O faithful God,
For rescue from our sorry lot.

For you have made a promise true
To pardon those who flee to you,
Through him whose name alone is great,
Our Savior and our advocate.

And so we come, O God, today
And all our woes before you lay;
For sorely tried, cast down, we stand,
Perplexed by fears on every hand.

Oh, from our sins hide not your face;
Absolve us through your boundless grace!
Be with us in our anguish still!
Free us at last from every ill!

So we with all our hearts each day
To you our glad thanksgiving pay,
Then walk obedient to your Word,
And now and ever praise you, Lord.

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

This is one Sacred Harp hymn that is recognizable to many of us who grew up singing traditional hymns in church.  Titled Ortonville in Sacred Harp books, my 1991 edition includes an epigraph referencing Song of Solomon 1:3, “Thy name is as ointment poured forth.”

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fears, and drives away his fears.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary rest, and to the weary rest.

Dear Name! the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place;
My never-failing treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace, with boundless stores of grace.

Text by John Newton, 1779
Tune by Thomas Hastings, 1837

And here it is sung to the tune St. Peter.

Ortonville is the tune I remember best from childhood, but some churches I attended used the St. Peter one.

Be Thy Love with Love Requited

One thing I have enjoyed in worshipping in a different tradition (Presbyterian), is singing wonderful old hymns I never knew before.   Our choir is also influenced by Episcopalian and Anglican music, from which comes this hymn.

My choir will be singing this 17th century hymn during communion this coming week.

Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness,
   leave the gloomy haunts of sadness,
Come into the daylight’s splendor,
   there with joy thy praises render
Unto Him whose grace unbounded
   hath this wondrous banquet founded;
High o’er all the heavens he reigneth,
   yet to dwell with thee he deigneth.
Sun, who all my life dost brighten;
   Light, who dost my soul enlighten;
Joy, the best that any knoweth;
   Fount, whence all my being floweth:
At thy feet I cry, my Maker,
   let me be a fit partaker
Of this blessed food from Heaven,
  for our good, thy glory, given.
Jesus, Bread of life, I pray thee,
   Let me gladly here obey thee;
Never to my hurt invited,
   be thy love with love requited:
From this banquet let me measure,
   Lord, how vast and deep its treasure;
Through the gifts thou here dost give me,
   as thy guest in heaven receive me.

Evening Confession

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O God, the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning; We beseech Thee to look in mercy upon us, Thy sinful and wayward children: and so direct the eyes of our faith unto Thee, that at all times we may receive a heavenly illumination, through Thy Word and Spirit: and walk securely, in confidence and peace, amid the shadows of this mortal life.  And more especially at this hour of the evening sacrifice, bestow upon us the pardon of our sins, and such a vision of the truth as it is in Jesus, that the darkness of evil may be driven from our hearts, and we may render unto Thee songs of praise: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

                                          Presbyterian Book of Common Worship

Omega File

A couple of weeks ago, in our Sunday service, my minister spent some time talking about death rituals through the centuries, and more especially about Christian funerals.  He advocated that we fill out something he referred to as an “Omega File,” a document of what a person wants to be said at their own funeral.  Not a popular or comfortable subject, he noted, but important.  I appreciated him saying that it was our last opportunity to be a witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Personally I would be pleased if my own funeral came straight out of the Book of Common Prayer’s Order for the Burial of the Dead.  It expresses perfectly the hope of my life.  I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of “celebration of life” ceremonies…my own quirk.  I do not think they are wrong though, after all the person’s life IS a gift and should be celebrated too, and I so enjoy hearing personal remembrances from those closest to the deceased.  I’ve also observed that it is sometimes helpful for the family to have a chance to honor their loved one.

After our church service someone said to me “Well, now we are supposed to plan our own funerals too.”  My reply was that when my mother died she left instructions about her funeral, which was a gift also to her family because we knew how to really honor her and her faith.  Mom’s Pastor Dave included EVERY thing Mom suggested, which wasn’t necessary, but it endeared him to me for always.  (She had suggested a number of hymns and if we didn’t sing them they were printed in the bulletin).  Another point of my own is that family members do not necessarily share our faith, so if we want to be sure our funeral is Christian we need to plan for it.

Here is the simple Omega File form our church has on file (it is evident we are primarily a retirement community):

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Facilitating Worship through Music

Jonathan Aigner says something I’ve been struggling to find the words to express in this brief essay on congregational singing in worship.

As a musician, the goal of excellence is implicit in any mention of music-making. That’s not the issue for me. The problem is this underlying tone of enjoying music in worship. To me, enjoyment is never the supreme objective (emphasis added). I want to facilitate music that preaches, challenges, afflicts, inspires. Music that puts God’s story on people’s lips. Music that conveys a sense of urgency to the Christian life and worship. Music that gives the congregation a job.

If they enjoy it, splendid. But if that’s the goal, why bother with any of it?

Sometimes work is fun. Often, it isn’t. The reason we worship isn’t to have jesusy fun. This is serious business, and though measures of joy, peace, exuberance, elation, humor all certainly have a place, we don’t participate because we feel like it. Worship is work, and sometimes it isn’t enjoyable, emotionally positive, or imminently fulfilling.

I’m not pontificating here. Not at all. I’m saying this humbly, repentantly. I’m saying this because of the challenge, the constraint it places on me to remember this truth myself.

It is natural to want to sing familiar hymns and songs, but I am very thankful that I have had to learn new ones where I now worship.  In addition to the fact that, especially the older ones, are good theology, having to pay attention to the text precisely because of my unfamiliarity with it, keeps me focused on the meaning, and it helps me worship.

C.S. Lewis had a similar point of view:

I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit. It is not for me to lay down laws, as I am only a layman, and I don’t know much.  (God in the Dock)

Demanding that we only sing our favorites has one major fault, I think.  It is egocentric.