Concerning church music…

Thanks for joining me!

I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts, experiences and videos of my work regarding decisions and inspirations for weekly church services. Though most of the musings will be directed to higher liturgy accompanied by an historic pipe organ, the principles should be applicable to to all church musicians.

  • My starting place is scripture. It is God’s voice and He speaks to us through it each week in the richest way. There is always a challenge because we are all prone to wander. There is always hope for everyone who listens; Christ has done it all. This is the gospel we celebrate.
  • How does a church musician help the congregation to respond to this? Carefully, honestly, and prayerfully. The communal songs reflect God’s challenge and the congregation’s heart-filled response; so does the all the other music in the service.
  • The people and instruments in our local congregations are God’s gift to us. Church musicians use all their training and skills to present their congregation’s best each week. This is an awesome task!

As for the specifics of picking music for each part of the service, I use the following guidelines:

  1. The Prelude does not necessarily need to be chorale based but it does need to be related to the service either through musical motif (chorale, ostinato, etc.), mood (joyful, lovely, reflective) or intent. Even though people are getting settled and greeting each other during this time and it seems that no one is listening, I am convinced they still can pick up and prepare for the message through what I play as a prelude.
  2. The opening hymn is meant to set the tone and introduce the scriptural theme for the service. Generally, it is a song of praise and welcome.
  3. The hymn of the day follows the readings and the sermon. I believe that this hymn must be a communal response to God’s word as heard in the scripture and homily.
  4. The choir selection needs to follow the same guidelines as the hymn of the day, except that this selection can be pulled from many sources (not just chorales and spiritual songs).
  5. The communion hymns (or offertory and communion hymns) take the spiritual theme and apply it to each individual. These are more reflective hymns or they can be strong hymns to follow the call. In either case, they are an application of the gospel message.
  6. The closing hymn is a sending for the congregation back into the world and this song usually has a recap of the service as well as a call to service.
  7. The postlude reinforces the call to service and follows the same guidelines as the prelude.

I hope this will be helpful to congregants, musicians, and organists of all denominations.

Good Friday

“If the tears on my cheeks can achieve nothing, O then take my heart!”

April 2, 2021 Year B

Credit: Mike Wellman

The altar is stripped bare and we remember the sacrifice Jesus made to free us from death. It is such a simple statement but it has eternal ramifications. What an amazing God we serve.

Our Maundy Thursday service is online and is very short and simple. However, it effectively captures our thoughts and despair about the wrongs in the world and our lives. All is stripped bare.

Our Good Friday service is also online. We really wanted to involve as many congregants as possible since we don’t see many people in-person yet. The best way to do this is through a service of readings (based on the Passion story from the gospel of John) and lots of responsive music – both chorales and performed music. All this allows us as a community to say together our thanks to God.

We look forward to an in-person service of praise and glorifying our risen Saviour on Easter Sunday with trumpet, and lots of singing. I wish you all a blessed Easter and hope our worship services have been a blessing to you.

Christ is risen!

Ash Wednesday

February 17, 2021 Year B

Photo by @seb on

Today is Ash Wednesday and we are still in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic. Even though we may feel very much like this picture above, the purpose of Ash Wednesday is to acknowledge that this is more than a feeling: it is our condition. Our hope rests solely in God’s hands.

Highwood Lutheran decided not to create an “imposition of ashes” service because we physically can’t at this point. However, we did decide to publish a service of reflection, using song and scripture to highlight our trust in God when we see that we cannot help ourselves. I hope this service can help start your journey through these next forty days of Lent.

+ A SERVICE OF REFLECTION + (click on the title to get to the service)

Prelude  ‘O People, Weep For Your Great Sins’  arr. J.S. Bach
Greeting:  Wisdom 11: 24, 25, 27


P Brothers and sisters in Christ, the custom of the Church is the great devotion of days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection.  It became the norm of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. 

Today begins this season of Lent, a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. Also, this is a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness and restored to the fellowship of the community. Thereby, the whole congregation put in mind the message of pardon and absolution, set forth in the Gospel of our Saviour, and the need that all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith. 

I invite you, therefore, to participate in the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-improvement; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word. 

Solo Out of the Depths I Cry to You (verses 1 and 2) No. 600

Prayer of the Day

Organ Solo All People Must Pass Away arr. J.S. Bach

First Lesson: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Psalm 51 Sung

Second Lesson: Isaiah 58:1-12

Hymn Our Father, We Have Wandered No. 606

Third Lesson: 2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10

Solo I Want Jesus To Walk With Me No. 325

Litany of Penance

Hymn The Glory of These Forty Days No. 320

The Holy Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21


Hymn Just As I Am, Without One Plea No. 592

The Prayers

Hymn   Be Thou My Vision No. 793


Solo: Out of the Depths I Cry to You (Verses 3 and 4) No. 600


The 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept 13, 2020 Year A

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Scripture: We read about the amazing story about Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers in Genesis 50. In Psalm 103, David praises God for His unsurpassed forgiveness and mercy. Paul, in Romans 14, asks why we are so willing to pass judgement on our fellow believers over small things – we all will have to give an account of ourselves before God. Peter asks Jesus in Matthew 18 how many times he should forgive his fellow believer and Jesus answers with the equation “seventy time seven” and the parable of the king who forgave the large debt of his servant, who in return did not forgive the debt of a fellow servant.

What does it mean? Forgiveness is a very important part of being a Christian. All the scripture passages point to the boundless capacity of God to forgive and we are expected to do likewise.

So what? Last week I talked about accountability and today’s message compliments that discussion by telling us how. We are to be a community of light to the world and to be very discerning of what is right and wrong. This is understandable and straight forward. However, how we do this requires heart – the ability to truly forgive each other when a wrong occurs. This is the first step towards reconciliation, trust and love; without it, our hearts are not in the right place and pride move in and we become judgmental. In the right place, our hearts are humble and receptive to the work of the Holy Spirit and we can share God’s love effectively.

Music: The main theme of forgiveness is what I stayed with today for the selections of the music. The hymns focus on praise for God’s goodness to us and prayer for our sins and our ability to forgive others. The prelude and postlude point us to the source of our salvation and joy.

Prelude: “Jesus Christ, Hope of the World” J.S. Bach This is being played as part of a concert given by Bart Jacobs on July 18, 2020 at the St. Nicholas’ church in Ghent, Belgium.

Opening hymn: Praise to the Lord #858 (Lobe Den Herren)

Hymn of the Day: Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive #605 (Detroit)

Offertory hymn: Come Ye Disconsolate #607 (Consolation)

Communion hymn: In Thee is Gladness #867 (In Dir Ist Freude)

Closing hymn: Lord, Dismiss Us #545 (Sicilian Mariners)

Postlude: “Praise to the Lord” (#858) J.G. Walther 

Put on your armour of light

The 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept 6, 2020 Year A

Shine to reveal the Way Photo by Pixabay on

Scripture: God encourages the righteous through Ezekiel (Chapter 33) to recognize and tell others of the evil they do. He also expresses dismay for the upcoming death of those who do evil. Psalm 119, verses 33-40, is a prayer to God to incline our hearts to His way. In Romans 13, Paul warns Christians to be mindful that Jesus’ return is closer than we realize and we need to put on the “amour of light.” Finally, Jesus gives us the right way to resolve issues and hold each other accountable against doing wrong.

What Does It Mean? In an era where there is no agreement on absolute truth, holding each other accountable is not an easy thing to do. However, that is exactly what the scripture today is talking about. It requires us to discern our actions and keep orientating our desires to God’s ways. If we can do this together, Jesus promises that the Spirit will be among us and evil cannot prevail.

So What? It is easy to avoid the things or people we do not like. It is even easier to “cancel” people when their view isn’t exactly conforming to ours. God does not want us to avoid those who are not Christians, rather He wants us to interact with them in such a way that they can see His love in our actions. The key is interacting. Like the image above, God’s light or God’s truth reveals the way forward through the darkness. I pray that we can have the courage to show and talk about God’s light when opposing the dark places of injustice, inequality and poverty in our society.

Music: I have worked with the themes of showing God’s love and charity, our humility and reliance on the Spirit, remembering what Christ did for those who rejected Him, and our desire to follow God’s law.

Prelude:  “God, When Human Bonds Are Broken” (Merton) R. Dubois. The text to this hymn sets the tone/emotion for the service.

Opening hymn:  Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven #865 (Praise, My Soul). The hymn of praise points to the love, charity, and protection God shows to us as He now sits on the throne.

Hymn of the Day: Saviour, When in Dust to You Low We Bow #601 (Aberystwyth). This hymn again uses the image of the Lamb of God now on the throne in heaven, encouraging us through the darkness.

Offertory hymn: Where Charity and Love Prevail #359 (Twenty-Fourth). This 9th century text hold the truth of today’s scripture: where there is charity and love, there God is ever found.

Communion hymn: Lord of All Nations #716 (Beatus Vir). This prayer is very similar to the Psalm we read today, asking that we can act according to God’s love.

Closing hymn: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee #836 (Hymn to Joy). We end by singing praise to a God who has shown us so much mercy and love and that we may show the same to each other.

Postlude:  Rhosymedre R. Vaughn Williams. The arrangement of a Welsh tune, sometimes called “Lovely” captures the serenity of something beautiful. When people experience God’s love in community, it is a beautiful thing.

Jesus: are we ready to follow His lead?

The 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Aug 30, 2020 Year A

An Invitation Photo by Pixabay on

Scripture. Jeremiah laments the pain and suffering he is receiving even though God’s word are a delight and joy to his soul. God promises that He will defend Jeremiah and the evil he receives will not prevail over him. In Psalm 26, David asks God to vindicate him because he has walked with integrity. In Romans 12, Paul reminds us to let our love for all be genuine, always doing good and letting God avenge the evil that comes against us. Jesus explains to his disciples in Matthew 16 how He will avenge evil by saying plainly that He will die but will rise again. Peter tries dissuade Him but Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him it has to happen this way. Everyone who follows me, say Jesus, will need to be prepared to carry their own cross but the reward will be glorious.

What does it mean? In Jesus’ ongoing discussion of His role in God’s plan of salvation to defeat evil, we see that Christians are called to follow Christ’s example and persevere with good/loving actions (our cross), despite the rejection we will/usually face. We are not to judge but deal kindly. We are called to recognize Jesus as our life, our joy, and our righteousness in the midst of rejection as grain in a field filled with weeds.

So what? My neighbour of almost 20 years confronted me this summer and accused me for calling the police because of his dog and his noisy gatherings! Ignoring all social distancing, he came right up to my face and after I denied doing what he accused me of doing (because I believe in discussing these small issues with him and not calling the police), he called me a liar and with very “colourful” insults, he tried to provoke me to a fist fight. It didn’t happen and after 20 minutes of dialogue, he went back to his house, still angry and still not believing me.

I was very aware of deciding to diffuse the confrontation by not being aggressive but by being honest and compassionate. You need to know that I have talked to him many times before about his dog (who he loved), his life, the loud gatherings, and calling the police (he believed me then). However, never had he come at me like that before. My strategy worked but it did not repair our relationship. The confrontation rattled me and because I thought I knew him well enough from previous discussions, his action really surprised me. I think there is something more is going on. David’s words from Psalm 26 come to me – I know that I am in the right but I am not angry, rather I am feeling more compassion for him than ever before. I hope that we will have a chance to become good neighbours again soon.

Music: I tried to pick up on the themes of following Christ’s lead, leaving any judgement to Him, and reveling in the Grace we receive.

Prelude:  “O God, You Righteous God”  BWV 767 J.S. Bach J.S. Bach wrote this partita (collection of variations based on the text of each verse) “O God, You Righteous God” to remind us that Christ endured the ultimate hardship for us.  You will hear the chorale and variations which correspond to the verses talking about living through hardship in the support of Christ and his church.  The penultimate variation reflects Christ’s death; his sacrifice for us.  The final variation rejoices in Christ’s resurrection and the new life we have!  

Opening hymn: For the Beauty of the Earth #879 (Dix) We give thanks to God for all He has given us.

Hymn of the Day: Before the Throne of God Above (Before the Throne of God) The original words are by Charitie Lees Bancroft (1841-1892) but the current version has been adapted by Vikki Cook. The great song points to Christ as our atonement.

Offertory hymn: Jesus, Still Lead On #624 (Seelenbrautigam) We ask Jesus to be our example in all aspects of our life and interactions.

Communion hymn: Blest Be the Tie That Binds #656 (Dennis) The community of Christians supports one another in hardship and together we gather before the throne of God in His grace.

C  Let Streams of Living Justice #710 (Thaxted) We ask God that our actions today may be a blessing to all who need it.

Postlude: Give Me Jesus arr. Marques L.A. Garrett I love this Spiritual because it simply speaks to picking the right choice from the plethora of life choices available to us. The arrangement by this black American organist works through some challenges before getting to the right choice.

God is our good

The 12th Sunday after Pentecost, Aug. 23, 2020 Year A

The Rock Photo by Trace Hudson on

Scripture. God, again through Isaiah (Chapter 51), implores those looking for meaning, hope, justice, and righteousness to look to Him for their answers. David, in Psalm 138 thanks God intentionally in front of his enemies knowing that God will be praised and His purposes for David will be fulfilled, no matter what happens. After talking about God’s grace and salvation for all people, Paul, in Romans 12, now encourages us who believe to respond by being living sacrifices, discerning good from evil, showing humility, and sharing our abilities in community. Jesus asks His disciples in Matthew 16 who they think He is and Peter’s famous response “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (and Jesus’ stunning foundational insight) follows.

What does it mean? Keeping in mind the what we have learned over the past month about good and evil in the world, today’s passages lay the groundwork for people’s ability to be the grain. Isaiah tells us to look at what God has done and what He is promising to do. David knows that He is in God’s hands and doing the work God planned for him. Paul talks about community and how to be a productive part of it. Jesus explains to Peter that declaring Jesus as God was a working of the Holy Spirit and through the Spirit’s work, the church will be born and will grow.

So what? Today, people fight against injustice, inequality, poverty, and any other “evil” by naming it, protesting it and trust that if we can eradicate it, we will be in a better place as humanity. The scripture passages tell a different story. Fighting these evils and finding out how we individually can do this is only done effectively by understanding that God is the key. By knowing His plan of salvation and being lead/convinced by the Holy Spirit, we will do what we were born to do and show God’s grace to the world collectively as the church. Acknowledging Jesus as God is the rock solid faith that He was talking about. It is the foundation of our efforts to fight injustice and no evil can stand against it.

The Music. Today’s theme collides with the worldview of our society so I consider this Sunday very foundational to the Christian faith. I picked strong songs which talk about Christ as the foundation of our faith and hope.

Prelude: Passacaglia in d BuxVW 161 Dietrich Buxtehude. A passacaglia is a set of variations written over a repeating sequence of notes or, as musicians say, an ostinato. We have two of these pieces by this Baroque Danish composer and both are exquisite pieces of music. The concept of a foundation is easily heard in this ostinato but the magic is what Buxtehude writes over top of this, just like what we can do on the foundation of our faith.

Opening hymn: Christ is Made the Sure Foundation #645 (Westminster Abbey)

Hymn of the day: My Hope is Built #596 (The Solid Rock)

Offertory hymn: O Saviour, Precious Saviour #820 (Angel’s Story)

Communion hymn: Faith of Our Fathers #813 (St. Catherine)

Closing hymn: You Servants of God #825 (Lyons)

Postlude:  Allegro from “Concerto in a”  Antonio Vivaldi, arr J.S. Bach BWV 593. This transcription is full of enthusiasm which I hope the congregation feels as they leave this service today. It was a soft start to resuming in-person worship services and it was great to see believers together again.

God’s goodness is for everyone

The 11th Sunday after Pentecost, Aug. 16, 2020 Year A

Scripture. God makes a radical statement through Isaiah (56th chapter) to maintain justice and do what is right because His salvation is coming soon for all people, not just the Jewish people. The psalmist of Psalm 67 asks for God’s blessings so that “all the ends of the earth may revere Him.” Paul claims in Romans 11 that we all are disobedient to God but because of the mercy He shows to us, all can receive that mercy. In Matthew 15, Jesus explains what He meant by “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what come out that defiles” and drives out the demon in the daughter of the Canaanite woman.

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on

What does it mean? In our discussion about good and evil in the world, we naturally think ourselves aligned with the good but, in fact, we fail to do good. Our corrupt, pride-filled hearts give us away every time; it is what naturally comes out of all of us. God could just have plowed under the entire crop, weeds and all, and started over: that is what we deserve. But, He didn’t and won’t. Because of what Jesus Christ did for the Canaanite women and all humanity on the cross, He removed the hold evil has on us now and will remove the Demon when He harvests at the end of time. This is available to all who believe.

So what? There is no room for pride in a Christian’s life. In our illogical and increasing secular world, we are asked to seek justice and do good so all may know God’s mercy. This is a humbling realization and necessary to keep our focus in life. May we have to understanding to pray for the Spirit’s leading in matters of justice in our society and wisdom for helping each other during this pandemic.

The music. I intentionally focused on a tone of prayer, the true antidote to pride. We need to pray for humility in our actions of justice and good so that God may be glorified, not us. I also include the themes of inclusion of all in worship and God’s salvation.

Prelude: Chorale #3  by Cesar Franck. This emotional and fiery prayer is a great way to start this service. This Romantic Parisian organist wrote this piece just before his death and besides being some of his best, it is full of passion and longing, just as our prayer should be for this Sunday’s theme.  

Opening hymn: Jesus Shall Reign #434 (Duke Street). This joyful hymn talks about the sovereignty of God, the source of our true pride and assurance.

Hymn of the day: All are Welcome #641 (Two Oaks). This hope and grace of Jesus is for everyone and all are welcome to our service to learn more about this.

Offertory hymn: There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy  #588 (Lord, Revive Us). This hymn talks about the depth of God’s justice, mercy and grace, and turns into a prayer that our lives may reflect this rich grace of God to others.

Communion hymn: Come With Us, O Blessed Jesus #501 (Werde Munter). This text by John Henry Hopkins Jr. echos our prayer to be channels of God’s grace to others.

Closing hymn: In Christ There is No East or West #650 (Mckee). This spiritual also captures the prayer reflected in the previous two hymns.

Postlude: Jesus Bleibet meine Freude (Jesu, joy of Man’s Desiring)  J.S. Bach. We sang this chorale during the communion and this organ arrangement from Cantata #147 fits well with the prayer theme which start the service. It also helps that it is extremely well known.

God’s promise to the righteous

The 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Aug. 9, 2020 Year A

Scripture. We read the amazing story of Elijah when he was convinced he was the only believer left in Israel (1 King’s 19), see that when “steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss” (Psalm 85, the sons of Korah), understand through Paul’s explanation who righteous people are in Romans 10, and hear the miracle of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14.

Walking on Water Photo by Benjamin Cruz on

What does it mean? These texts are all about assurance. When we live our lives with so many conflicting ideas and values, it is easy to doubt. Through these stories, God comes and points out that He knows exactly what is going on. Elijah hear directly from God’s whisper that he was not alone. The sons of Korah paint this great picture of assurance when God’s love and faithfulness for us will result in the kissing of our righteousness and peace in our lives. Paul tells us to expect that righteousness as a process which God is working out in our lives. Jesus, by walking on water and inviting Peter to as well, reminds us to not be distracted but follow Him and His promises.

So what? A lot of people today talk about having faith in themselves to make decisions for their well-being. When poor decisions are made (and we all do), that faith can easily be shattered. Now image having a faith in something that will never let you down. It grows stronger as you act on it. It will lead you in ways you cannot possibly imagine. It promises to grow your righteousness and give you peace today. This is what God’s offers everyone and what a strong assurance that is – strong enough to perhaps walk on water.

The Music. Assurance is the main theme and songs with a strong and joyous tune and text are what i have included in this service.

Prelude: Chorale Prelude on “My Song Shall Be of Jesus” arr. Richard Dubois. I often do improvisations on new tunes before the service begins so that congregation can hear the tune before we start. This song talks of Jesus as the foundation of our song/faith.

Opening hymn:  Eternal Father, Strong to Save #756 (Melita). With the story of Jesus in command of the water, I thought it appropriate to start with this hymn. It picks up of the imagery of the sea and is a prayer for those on the sea, extended to the sea of life/faith. There is a fascinating history to this hymn tune that you can find here.

Hymn of the day: My Life Flows On in Endless Song #763 (How Can I Keep From Singing). This hymn is all about the assurance we have in Christ using water imagery.

Offertory hymn: When Peace Like a River #785 (Ville Du Havre). This is one of the most moving hymnody stories of faith in Christ in the middle of tragedy and loss. To see the story, go here.

Communion hymn: What a Fellowship #774 (Showalter). Another great hymn of assurance.

Closing hymn: My Song Shall Be Of Jesus. Words: Fanny J. Crosby, 1875. Adapted by Margaret Clarkson, 1973. Music: ’Sondance’ Kenneth W. Paxton, 1998. Setting: Kenneth W. Paxton, 1998. Words, public domain. Adaptation released into public domain by Hope Publishing Company. Music and Setting copyright: Copyright 1998 Kenneth W. Paxton. This tune and setting may be freely reproduced or published for Christian worship, provided they are not altered, and this notice is on each copy. All other rights reserved. This score is a part of the Open Hymnal Project, 2009 Revision.

Postlude: “On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss” arr. David Holsinger.

God: slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness Part 3

The 9th Sunday after Pentecost, August 2, 2020 Year A

God, through Isaiah (the 55th chapter), invites everyone to take His good gifts which are free instead of those that cost a lot and are not as good. King David again tells us that the Lord is good to all, steadfast in His love and mercy in Psalm 145. Paul clarifies in Romans 9 about his people, the Jews, who have rejected Christ but to whom all God’s promises still apply. Jesus tell his disciples in Matthew 14 to feed the crowd of over five thousand people who were curious about what He had to say and what He could do to help them.

Bread and Fish for 5000 Photo by Roger Cziwerny on

What does it mean? Remembering the previous discussions about good and evil in the world, these passages show that the blessings God offers are for everyone, not just Christians. Isaiah shakes his head in disbelief at those who reject the Lord’s blessings, and King David reminds us that the Lord provides for all. The most egregious rejection of God’s goodness was done by the Jewish people when they crucified Christ but still all His gifts are available to them. This is enforced by Jesus’ compassion for the large crowd who had come to hear Him, which did not discriminate between believers and not believers: all were feed. What is this that God offers all? His grace which includes forgiveness, a joyful life and eternal life.

So what? I love it when I see my students want to learn and be curious about things. This hilarious video about the insect Daddy Long Legs shows such a natural, honest curiosity which leads to sincere and meaningful questions. Our honest curiosity, whether believer or non-believer, about our world (the good and the bad events, ideas, ideologies) should bring us to God’s plan of salvation. How do we respond? With thanksgiving or rejection.

The music. Since this is a church service, the Spirit moves us to respond with thanksgiving. This is the tone/emotion for this service along with the themes of God’s gifts to us and His steadfast love and faithfulness.

Prelude:  Sonata Giojoso Opus 84 by Barrie Cabena. This Canadian organist (immigrated from Australia) based this work loosely on the Psalm 100. As the term Giojoso indicates, this composition is joyous and bursting with enthusiastic playfulness. The piece starts with a toccata and goes into a jazzy episode which gives way to the toccata again except it now includes the chorale tune. This tune is developed through a fugue and a medieval regal section before going back to the jazzy episode and the joyous recap of the toccata and chorale. Sets the tone well for this service.

Organist notes: This piece uses the complete compass of the manual and pedal notes on the modern organ. Since the Highwood organ has a limited compass, I had to adjust several things to make it work. I think it does, when all is said and done.

Opening hymn: Oh, Worship the King #842 (Hanover). This hymn is a great call to worship as it invites everyone to worship God and reminds everyone that we live in His bountiful care.

Hymn of the day: O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts #658 (Walton). The words of this hymn, attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, are a prayer for us to hear what God is offering us and respond with thanksgiving and proclamation.

Offertory hymn: Break Now the bread of Life #515 (Bread of Life). The breaking of bread refers to communion but also to the story of feeding the five thousand and to Christ, the Bread of Life.

Communion hymn: O Living Bread From Heaven #542 (Aurelia). We respond to the gifts that the Bread of Life gives to all.      

Closing hymn: Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow #884 (Old Hundredth). Again, we offer our thanks to God for all blessings as we leave to share what we have gained.

Postlude: The Old Hundredth (Little Partita) arr. Jacobus Kloppers. This composer from Edmonton, Alberta immigrated from South Africa, and was head of the music department at The King’s University until he retired. He composed this piece as a wedding gift for me and my wife. The second movement is written as a Baroque trio sonata which has the light, playful counterpoint to the doxology hymn tune while maintaining the unique harmonic colour of this composer.

God: slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness Part 2

The 8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, July 26, 2020

We read about King Solomon (in 1 Kings 3), when asked by God for a gift at the beginning of his reign, asking for wisdom and receiving that and more, the psalmist of Psalm 119 explaining that when we open God’s word, it gives light and understanding, Paul encouraging us that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8) and more parables concerning the Kingdom of God in Matthew 13.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

What does it mean? Last week we saw that good and evil are in our lives. Today we are given a God pleasing response to the evil in the world: understand the circumstances we live in. Jesus’ parables are meant to give insight into the reality of evil in our world and what will happen though we may not see it now. Solomon and Paul knew what was ahead for them and both encourage us to fall back on the wisdom and love of God when it gets tough. The psalmist points to where to find a deeper understanding of both.

So what? God knows what He is doing and cares for all His creation. All humanity is given the same chance to live and thrive in God’s grace, no matter what the circumstances. Globally, we see huge discrepancies in human rights, poverty, and freedoms but we also see people living in God’s wisdom despite those circumstances. So many times I have heard about people who go on mission trips only to return saying that they were astonished by the joy people had with so little. Joy can be found even in terrible poverty and politics because it is deeper than just happiness. The global pandemic is a global brokenness that has no boundaries – everyone is affected. We live in a world with good grain and evil weeds and we are called to respond by sharing the joy we have in Christ.

Music. As Christians, we enter worship knowing hardship but more importantly, our joy in the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. We look forward to the day when evil is removed. I purposefully picked music which reflects this while including the theme of harvest.

Prelude:  “Soul, Adorn Yourself With Gladness” arr. J.S. Bach BWV 654. This beautiful arrangement of the chorale expresses the joy we have as God’s children because we experience God’s love but also understand the cost to Jesus.

Opening hymn: Gather Us In #532 (Gather Us In). This hymn has the imagery of the harvest when all will be gathered but it also invites all to come in to understand God’s love and faithfulness.

Hymn of the day: God of Grace and God of Glory #705 (CWM Rhondda). This great hymn tune and text is an heart-felt prayer asking, as Solomon did, for wisdom and understanding for the “living of these days.”

Offertory hymn: Let Us Go Now to the Banquet #523 (Vamos Todos al Banquete). A Spanish invitation for all to joyfully come and share in the grace of Christ!

Communion hymn: Soul, Adorn Yourself With Gladness #488 (Schmucke Dich). “Soul, adorn yourself with gladness, leave the gloomy haunts of sadness, come into the daylight’s splendor, there with joy your praises render. Bless the one whose grace unbounded this amazing banquet founded; Christ, though heavenly,high, and holy, deigns to dwel with you most lowly.”

Closing hymn: Be thou My Vision #793 (Slane). This great Irish blessing, like Solomon, asks for God’s wisdom as we live out our lives this coming week.  

Postlude:  “In You Is Gladness” (#867) arr. J.S. Bach BWV 615. The hymn talks about finding gladness (joy) in God despite the sadness around us and Bach’s arrangement majestically reminds us of that as we leave.