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Music Notes from Denise, June 13, 2024

This Sunday we will read Jesus’s parables about scattering seed upon the ground to allow nature to fulfill its purpose of growing a plant, and the Mustard Seed parable in Mark 4: With what can we compare the kingdom of God…It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs…the birds can make nests in its shade. In Issue 84 of the RSCM Sunday by Sunday, it goes further: Jesus’ wry humour comes out because “Mustard seed is a weed, and dreadfully hard to eradicate. So we have to be ready to rejoice if the seeds we are given produce unexpected, untidy kingdom growth.” (2018 The Royal School of Church Music)

 

In honor of these agricultural Gospel parables, the Prelude will be All things bright and beautiful using the English tune composed by William Henry Monk (1823-1889) and arranged by Thomas Hewitt Jones (b. 1984). (Oxford University Press 2016) The Processional hymn will be The Church’s one foundation written by Samuel J. Stone in 1866. In the mid-nineteenth century, Bishop John William Colenso of Natal raised a ruckus in the Catholic Church when he challenged the historicity and authority of many of the Old Testament books. Bishop Gray of Capetown wrote a stirring response of defense, which, in 1866, inspired Samuel Stone, to write this beloved hymn, basing his text on Article 9 of the Apostle’s Creed: “The Holy Catholic (Universal) Church; the Communion of Saints; He is the Head of this Body.” Now an affirmation of Christ as the foundation of our faith, we sing this hymn with those who have gone before us and with Christians around the world, declaring that beyond any theological differences, cultural divides, and variances in practice, we are all part of the same body, the body of Christ. (hymnary.org)

 

Our Sequence hymn, We walk by faith and not by sight describes our reading in 2 Corinthians 5:6 We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight. It was written in 1844 by Henry Alford, D.D. (1810-1871). He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and eventually served as Dean of Canterbury.

 

The Offertory further describes our parable in Mark, The Kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed, written by Gracia Grindal (b.1943). Grindal was educated at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minn.; the University of Arkansas; and Luther-Northwestern Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota where she has served since 1984 as a professor of pastoral theology and communications. She was instrumental in producing the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and The United Methodist Hymnal (1989). The kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed. When it is sown in the earth, it is the smallest seed. It is like the kingdom of God and a mystery. For when it is sown, it grows into the largest plant, greater than all of the herbs, and grows into a tree. It grows so birds can rest inside its crown of leaves, deep in its shadows, away from any evil prey. And so we can liken it to seeds which make a plant larger than all of the trees from just the smallest seed. (1987 Hope Publishing Co.)

 

As a salute to those who “father” each of us this Father’s Day, the communion voluntary will be settings of the classic hymn, This is my Father’s world by Nicholas Palmer and Robert D. Vandall.

 

Our final hymn also reflects our seed-growing theme, In the bulb there is a flower by Natalie Sleeth (1930-1992). Sleeth was a native of Evanston, Illinois and later studied music, piano, and organ at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She wrote this song as an anthem in 1985 and has written many anthems, especially for children. In her book Adventures for the Soul (1987, Hope Publishing Co.) she wrote about how this song came to be. A friend of hers recalled a T.S. Eliot line: “In our end is our beginning” and she applied this to her ponderings about life and death, spring and winter, and the reawakening of the world each year. “She expressed how life moves into death, death into eternity, and ultimate victory comes for those whose doubt has evolved into belief.” Which brings us back to our previous hymn: we walk by faith, and not by sight. (1986 Hope Publishing Co.; umcdiscipleship.org)

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