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Music Notes from Denise, January 13, 2024

This Sunday we begin to learn about the journey of Jesus after his baptism. Our Processional hymn is How bright appears the Morning Star, written by Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608). He was a Lutheran pastor in what is now Germany and wrote several hymns. When writing this hymn it was said that “One morning in great distress and tribulation in his quiet study. He rose in spirit from the distress and death which surrounded him to his Redeemer and Saviour, and while he clasped Him in ardent love there welled forth from the inmost depths of his heart this precious hymn of the Saviour's love and of the joys of Heaven. He was so entirely absorbed in this holy exaltation that he forgot all around him, even his midday meal, and allowed nothing to disturb him in his poetical labours till the hymn was completed "—-three hours after midday.” (


The Sequence hymn is Blessed Jesus, at thy word which is an old German hymn translated by Catherine Winkworth in 1858. It was written to be sung before the sermon as a prayer for illumination. In this hymn, we acknowledge our need for the illumination of the Holy Spirit to fully understand God’s message to us. We also recognize and claim the promise of Christ concerning this help: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26 (


St. Martin’s choir will sing an inspiring Offertory: The Lord is my Light. It was written by Lillian Bouknight in 1980 and is found in our Lift Every Voice and Sing hymnal. Very little is known about Bouknight except that she was an African American from North Carolina, and a soloist and composer in the Pentecostal Holiness movement in the Aliquippam, PA community, also serving as a prayer warrior and on the Mother’s Board. The text that she wrote is: The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, whom shall I fear? In the time of trouble, He shall hide me; whom shall I fear? (Laura de Jong,


Our Communion hymn, Here I am, Lord was written by Daniel Schutte in 1981. Schutte studied at St. Louis University and eventually joined the Jesuits and is currently director of music at University of San Francisco. The stirring refrain captures all of our imagination as it illustrates our reading from 1 Samuel 3 when the boy Samuel heard the voice of God calling him, and he answered, Here I am, for you called me. “This is a hymn of transformation. God transforms the darkness into light, melts hearts of stone with love and nourishes the poor and lame with the finest bread.” (C. Michael Hawn) Each stanza ends with the question, “Whom shall I send?” and we must answer the call with our own unique offering.  (


Our Final hymn will be Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim written by Charles Wesley. The year this text was written, 1744, was a year of political and religious turmoil in Britain. The newly formed Methodist societies were suspected of being merely disguised Roman Catholic societies and were accused of attempting to overthrow the Crown. To strengthen and reassure his Methodist followers, Charles Wesley anonymously published (1744). This text, in seventeen stanzas, was the first of the "Hymns to be Sung in a Tumult." Of those stanzas, 1 and 4-6 of Wesley's Part I are included; the battle-song stanzas, which the small but heroic Methodist groups sang in the face of violent opposition, are omitted. The text is a hymn of thankful praise to Christ for his victorious reign and for providing salvation for his people. It reveals the cosmic scope of Christ's kingdom and helps us to join our voices with the great doxology to Christ, the Lamb, as foretold in Revelation 5:9-14. (Psalter Hymnal Handbook) The last two stanzas are rich with allusions to scenes of worship in Revelation, including a quotation from Revelation 7:10, Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne! ( At this time in the church year, Jesus asks to be recognized as our Christ so that he can continually teach us how to serve him and to become our own unique part of his Kingdom.

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