For some reason, the music we sang this last Sunday really struck me.
The Gospel Acclamation we're singing is music written by Dan Howe. It's part of his Incarnation Mass which we use during the Epiphany season. We haven't done this particular acclamation in a long time, but I love the words:
My word will never come back to me empty, but will accomplish my will says the Lord, and the word become flesh and dwells among us.
The words are from Isaiah 55 which is subtitled in many Bibles as "An Invitation to an Abundant Life." The entire chapter is wonderful reading. Here’s just a bit:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
I love that image of something going out and returning as something greater. It's the perfect image for what we are as a church. For example, we put out a request for food for the Magi Project. People responded with 1 1/2 weeks of food for the shelves of our food pantry. Nothing we do as a church in the name of Jesus Christ returns empty.
Then we sang Here I Am Lord:
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.
There are lots of stories in the Bible where God calls to people and they respond: “Here I am.” Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Mary.
This particular hymn reference is also from Isaiah, chapter 6.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"
This is one of my favorite hymns. It portrays a sense of obligation and partnership. God calls us all the time, but I have to answer back, I'm here, I'm ready. But at the same time, I can't do it without your leadership.
At communion we sang Christ, Be Our Light, another favorite.
Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness. Christ, be our light! Shine in your church gathered today.
This is from 2 Corinthians 4:6.
For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
This is another partnership song. We are nothing without the light of God shining in our hearts.
The hymn that caught me by surprise on Sunday was Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing. I grew up in a large city school system in the mid-60s, and this song has not pleasant memories for me as the "Black National Anthem." I always approach singing it with mixed emotions.
But on Sunday, the third verse really grabbed me:
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; thou who hast by they might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee; lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee; shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand, true to our God, true to our native land.
Another partnership song. Whatever we have been through, God is with us to keep us on the path.
If you don't already do this, I invite you to read the words of the hymns we sing on Sunday morning, see how they reflect not only the Biblical themes of the day, but our Christian lives, and our partnership with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Let the music carry you out of the sanctuary and into the world.
- Ann Warner