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Music Notes from Denise, January 20, 2024

This Sunday we follow Jesus as he calls common fisher folk to be his disciples in Mark 1:14-20. We begin with a hymn of praise to illustrate God’s changed mind when Jonah went to Ninevah. Sing praise to God who reigns above was written by Johann Jakob Schutz in German in 1675 and translated by Frances E. Cox in 1864. The hymn extols the greatness of God in giving all good things to God’s people, and calls on us to continue to give God the praise so richly deserved. (Tiffany Shomsky,


Our Sequence hymn is Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult. It was written by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1865) in 1852 for St. Andrew’s feast day and describes Jesus’ calling of Simon Peter and Andrew. Cecil Frances lived in Ireland and wrote poetry in her school’s journal. In 1850 she married Rev. William Alexander, who later became the Anglican primate of Ireland. She showed her concern for disadvantaged people by traveling many miles each day to visit the sick and the poor, providing food, warm clothes, and medical supplies. The thread that binds this hymn together is the call of Christ. Just as Jesus called the fishermen to be his disciples, he still calls us today to be his followers and obedient servants. His call is for total commitment, a “follow me” that overrides all our earthly “cares and pleasures.” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook,


For the Offertory, we will have a special experience. The song, When Jesus saw the fishermen, was written for a children’s choir to sing along with Orff instruments, but we are expanding that to include both our Chapel choir, our St. Martin’s choir, and our Hand Bell choir. The simple words will be supported by repeated bells ringing in an ostinato pattern. The song was written by Edith Agnew in 1963 and the tune, St. Stephen was composed by Richard L. Van Oss in 1994. The song is a ballad, or a storytelling text, and surrounds the calling of the disciples with a simple tune. It asks, What would you do if Jesus said, “Come and follow me”? (Fiona Vidal-White, My Heart Sings Out hymnal supplement, 2006 Church Publishing Inc.)


Our Communion hymn also reflects our calling from Jesus, , was written in 1987 by John L. Bell and Graham Maule. I first encountered this song at a Presbyterian Women convention when the presenter, Carol Bechtel said, “I first heard this song on an album called God Never Sleeps by John Bell of the Iona Community in Scotland. The words are startlingly direct and the music simple and elegant…we feel like God is looking directly into our eyes and asking, “What are you going to say? What are you going to do?” (Horizons Jan/Feb 2001)


The final hymn, Spread, O spread, thou mighty word, describes our decision to answer the call of Jesus and to honor our God whose praise we have mightily sung. It was written by Jonathan F Bahnmaier (1774-1841). Another German hymn writer, Bahnmaier was distinguished as a preacher, and greatly interested in the causes of education, of missions, and of Bible societies. (John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology 1907)

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