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Music Notes from Denise, March 2, 2024

This Sunday we will read the ten commandments in Exodus 20 and extol the glory of God with Psalm 19. Our new testament readings will demonstrate the continued relevance of God’s law while following Jesus’ teachings, even as he expresses his anger with the money-lenders in the temple in John 2.

 

St. Martin’s choir will sing David M. Cherwien’s arrangement of I want Jesus to walk with me. This text is an anonymous spiritual, most likely of the African-American tradition. One author categorizes the song as a “communal lament” (Paul Westermeyer, Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 115-116). Another writes, “This text is categorized as a 'sorrow song,' meant for individual rather than group singing” (Robert L. Anderson, The New Century Hymnal Companion, p. 456). What both concur on is that this is not a happy song. The three stanzas in common use are “I want Jesus to walk with me,” “In my trials,” and “When I'm in trouble” (or sometimes “In my sorrows”). All of them focus on a plea for the companionship of Jesus throughout life, using the metaphor of a journey on foot. The Spiritual’s tune is also anonymous. It is named after Sojourner Truth, the freed slave who spoke for freedom and equality for all. (Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org) The choir will sing: I want Jesus to walk with me: all along my pilgrim journey, Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me. In my trials, Lord, walk with me; when my heart is almost breaking, Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me. When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me; when my head is bowed in sorrow, Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me. (2018 Birnamwood Publications)

 

Our Communion hymn will be Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face, written by Horatius Bonar (1808-1899).  Serving as the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, he also wrote 600 hymns. “This communion hymn is filled with Eucharist images: partaking in the “Bread of God” and “wine of heaven” suggest a sense of “the burden of sin removed”. The elements point beyond themselves to a greater reality as we sing the paradox of communion—a time when we “touch and handle things unseen.” (Ms. Bertwell, umcdiscipleship.org)

 

The final hymn is a new one for us, God the sculptor of the mountains, written by the Rev. John Thornburg, pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. This text is also full of powerful imagery, juxtaposing the obvious—sculptor of the mountain—to the unexpected—miller of the sand. “Moreover, the piling up of these obvious unexpected images in each stanza leads the poet to a statement about the Divine nature which then allows him to express our relationship to that nature: You are womb…we are formless, You are gate…we are sightless, You are host…we are hungry, You are present…we are searching. This confession of “a true faith,” for which we pray in the Collect of Trinity Sunday, is an important clue that this text which, at first glance, appears to be about God the Father is, in fact, a strong hymn about all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.” (John L. Hooker, Leader’s Guide to Wonder, Love and Praise hymnal supplement, 1997 by The Church Pension Fund) The tune, entitled Sandria, was named after Sandria Ward, who commissioned the tune to Dr. Gerre Hancock on behalf of the 1988 Houston National Convention of the American Guild of Organists.

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