Sunday, September 18, 2011

Music Notes - 18 September 2011

       “Seek the Lord while he may found; call on him while he is near.” When is the opportune time to seek the Lord? When is he near?  Psalm 145 tells us, “The Lord is near to all who call on him,” so the Lord is certainly “near” in prayer and worship. But is he closer in times of stress, when our security blankets have been pulled out from under us, or our assumptions are challenged, or we’re up against a wall, or at a “teachable moment”? Our meditation hymn, by John Bell of Iona Abbey, goes:

    The peace of God comes close to those caught in the storm,
       foregoing lives of ease to ease the lives forlorn. . . .
    The joy of God comes close where faith encounters fears,
       where heights and depths of life are found through smiles and tears. . . .
    The grace of God comes close to those whose grace is spent,
       when hearts are tired or sore, and hope is bruised and bent. . . .
    The Son of God comes close where people praise his name,
       where bread and wine are blest and shared as when he came.
    The Son of God is here to stay, embracing those who walk his way.

Our passage from Isaiah mirrors last week’s psalm (103), challenging us to love creation as God who created it, and that thought is carried out in Psalm 145 as well. In the gospel, Jesus ups the ante: while we might conceivably manage to forgive a horrific wrong (last week), the thought of someone working an hour and getting the same eternal wage as one who toiled for a lifetime is just not “right and just.”  Too often we try to play God.  We need to let God be God, minding our own spiritual business, keeping busy as Paul says, for whom “Christ means life.” We might imagine Paul singing the spiritual, “Been so busy praising my Jesus, I ain’t got time to die.” He could also sing along with Mighty to Save: “I give my life to follow/ everything I believe in; now I surrender.” The compassion, mercy and kindness mentioned in this song are also the themes of Isaiah and the psalmist. These same ideas are also found in O Bless the Lord, My Soul, a paraphrase of Psalm 103 written by Isaac Watts in 1719, and Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven. During the summer, we heard passages from Romans 8, and we will sing Grayson Brown’s setting of If God Is For Us. Finally, God’s forgiveness is reason for a Song for Hope: “All things new, I can start again; Creator God, calling me Your friend. . . .”

- Glenn Hufnagel