shepherd sounds: The II. Sunday after Pentecost

The II. Sunday after Pentecost

10 June 2012

Proper 5 B (GR)
Genesis 3.8–15
II Corinthians 4.13—5.1
Mark 3.20–35

10:00 am Holy Eucharist, Rite II
Summer Choir

Introit hymn 1
‘Father, we praise thee, now the night is over’
[Nocte surgentes vigilemus omnes]
 Latin, c.10
 tr. Percy Dearmer
‘Christe sanctorum’
 mel. Antiphoner, 1681

Psalm 130
With the Lord there is mercy
and plenteous redemption.
Tone III

Sequence hymn 669
‘Commit thou all that grieves thee’
[Befiehl du deine Wege]
 Paul Gerhardt
 tr. Arthur Wm. Farlander & Chas. Winfred Douglas
‘Herzlich tut mich verlangen’
 Hans Leo Haßler
 adapt. & harm. Johann Sebastian Bach

Offertory anthem
‘Jerusalem, my happy home’
 F.B.P., c.16
‘Land of Rest’
 American folk hymn
 arr. Russell Schulz

Communion anthem [469]
‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy’
 Frederick William Faber
‘St Helena’
 Calvin Hampton

Communion hymns 232, 339
‘By all your saints still striving’
 Horatio Bolton Nelson, ver. Hymnal 1982
 Finnish folk melody
 adapt. & harm. David Evans 
¶  Monday is the Feast of St Barnabas, Apostle

‘Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness’
[Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele]
 Johann Franck
 tr. Catherine Winkworth
‘Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele’
 mel. Johann Crüger
 harm. The English Hymnal, 1906

Postcommunion hymn 594
‘God of grace and God of glory’
 Harry Emerson Fosdick
‘Cwm Rhondda’ [Rhondda Valley]
 John Hughes

Perhaps there was a lot of tension in Jesus’s family. Now and then he would do things that created problems for the family. Here the siblings want to ‘take charge of him’ because he was in a house where the crowd control was out of control. The scribes go so far as to say that Jesus is the problem and he may even be possessed by demons. Jesus, who regularly challenges evil spirits, calls this nonsense. If you think I’m in league with the devil, he charges, why would I drive out my own kind!? There are enough conflict stories in the Gospels to give us the impression that Jesus often found himself at odds with power structures, usually religious leaders. Sometimes, however, the conflict is with his own family (see the passages that follow). When he walks away from the conflict, however, there is freedom, forgiveness, grace and mercy. It’s emancipating! Sunday’s hymnody makes that clear.

The Introit hymn is a morning hymn, probably written by Gregory the Great (540–604), for whom ‘Gregorian’ chant is named. It celebrates our safe arrival after the dangers of the night when we can stand active and watchful, ready for worship and ministry. Of course, it’s more than that. The burdens and tensions of life are set aside when Jesus comes with mercy on dawn’s wings. The Anglican priest Percy Dearmer (1837–1936), who is credited (along with Martin Shaw and Ralph Vaughan Williams) with making enormous contributions to the revival of traditional English music, provides the English translation of ‘Nocte surgentes vigilemus omnes’.

The Sequence hymn, ‘Commit thou all that grieves thee’, one of Paul Gerhardt’s (1607–1676) beloved lyrics, wrestles with a similar theme. Gerhardt himself struggled with many criticisms. On his portrait in Lubben, a parish that he served until his death, is written: ‘A theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve’. Despite all the challenges he endured, however, he encourages the worshipper to turn over everything to God for his every act is blessing – his every path is light.

The Postcommunion hymn, ‘God of grace and God of glory’, brings us to a similar conclusion. Written by Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969), pastor at the famed Riverside Church in Upper Manhattan, the text encourages that when the hosts of evil surround us, God will free our hearts to love and praise. Fosdick found himself in a great deal of turmoil because of his liberal views and his social activism, but he always came out of the conflict cheering on his congregation and inviting them to sing (in a stanza not included in the Hymnal 1982):

Set our feet on lofty places,
Gird our lives that they may be
Armored with all Christ-like graces
In the fight to set men free.

These are helpful words to all of us who come from various conflicts in our week, frazzled and dejected at times, having just enough courage and energy to bring us to the church’s door. But then we hear the Gospel, and the liturgy rallies us around the table of thanksgiving, and the music wells up in our throats. ‘God, send us out’, we pray, ‘filled with the Spirit’s power and the grace to find love and service in the opportunities that find us today’.

David Zersen

Sunday’s Epistle – a passage also often read at funerals – provides the inspiration for several texts we sing this week. The author promises us that ‘the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us...into his presence’ and encourages us, in the midst of things that are passing away, to look to things eternal:

‘Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’

Thus in the Introit hymn we pray, ‘fit us for thy mansions...bring us to heaven’, and in ‘Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness’, we pray ‘as thy guest in heaven receive me’. The Offertory anthem, a setting of Hymn 620, carries this further, with an extended (26 stanzas in the original) and longing description of heaven based upon the Revelation to St John, and doubtless other sources. This sixteenth-century poem not only describes City of God in terms of precious stones, fruits and spices, and the like, but in musical terms:

There David standes with harpe in hand
as maister of the Queere
Tenne thousand times that man were blest
that might this musicke hear

Our Ladie singes magnificat
with tune surpassing sweete
and all the virginns beare their parts
sitinge aboue her feet

Te Deum doth Sant Amrose singe
Saint Augustine dothe the like
Ould Simeon and Zacharie
Haue not more songes to seeke

There Magdelene hath left her mone
and cheerefullie doth singe
with blessed Saints whose harmonie
in everie streete doth ringe

(Simeon, of course, sings Nunc dimittis, and Zechariah, Benedictus Dominus Deus, in addition to Mary’s Magnificat in the opening chapters of Luke’s Gospel; Te Deum laudamus was traditionally ascribed to Ambrose and Augustine, while David is traditionally credited with the authorship of the Psalms.)

Even if the authors of these texts, and we ourselves, long for deliverance from affliction and suffering, however, we can be comforted not only that we will experience the full presence of God, but that we can experience the presence of God now, that we share in some measure in the joys which the saints at rest do continually enjoy. When we sing the Psalms and Canticles, or the Sanctus; when we partake of the ‘wondrous banquet’, the ‘blessed food from heaven’; when we give up ‘our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul’, we catch a glimpse of what is promised us.

Eric Mellenbruch

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