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08.12.18 God’s Gift and Ours Luke 12.16-24 Sermon Summary

Some people spend their whole life waiting or working. They say to themselves, “When I’ve done ______,” or “When I have this much in retirement,” “THEN I’ll volunteer, or give, or spend time with my kids.” Such people are waiting or working to say, along with the rich man in Jesus’ parable, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years. Relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”

The hitch is, at any time our lives can change. There are variables beyond our control and influence. In the narrative of the parable God says, “This very night your life is demanded of you!”

The man is called a fool by God, not because he WANTED to relax, eat, drink, and be merry. He’s a fool because he assumed he had more time. Note that he was ALREADY a rich man. He could have, at any time, relaxed, eaten, drunk, and been merry. But he didn’t. In classic narrative style, Jesus’ parable has the rich man receive a bumper crop merely to exaggerate the situation so we don’t miss it.

So the first meaning of the parable is this: Don’t wait to enjoy life. For me, for I am constantly working on this. The biggest motivator presented herself about 14 years ago: Parenthood. I have known many parents who live with regret, much of which could have been avoided. I don’t want to die a rich man—no matter how you define “riches”—with no relationship with my kids.

As the parable unfolds, Jesus cautions us to be “rich towards God.” Cleary part of what he means is to live in the present. Enjoy life now. Relax, eat, drink, and be merry now.

The second meaning, much more popular, is revealed with the question, “All for which you have prepared: Whose will they be?” The answer obviously is, No longer the rich man’s! He’s lost control of his riches.

So a second aspect of being a fool is trying to control things that we can’t. And a related matter: When circumstances outside our control change things, a fool isn’t able to let go. To be able to let go takes practice, and so a second meaning of this parable is to live generously, practicing letting go throughout one’s life so one can let go when life requires it.

This past weekend I officiated a “destination wedding.” Guests flew in from all around the country to attend. The ceremony was to be held on a hillside next to a resort lodge. The only problem was, moments into the ceremony it began to rain. We made the decision to suspend the wedding, reconvene in the lodge lobby, and conclude the ceremony there. All of us had to let go of our visions and live in the present.

There are two practices that prepare us to let go and live in the present. They are trusting God (which is why Jesus directs us to the ravens), and being generous in the present, for if we have a habit of letting go in the present, we will be able to let go whenever circumstances require it.

The hymn “Take my Life” instructs us on how to live in the present and be prepared to let go when required. It was written by Frances Havergal in the 19th Century. She was the daughter of minister, and has over 60 hymns still published in hymnals today.

There are several arrangements of the verses Frances wrote. The first half of one is combined with the second half of another, for example. Nevertheless, the thrust of the lyrics encourage us to trust God, live in the present, and be generous.

The theme of “Take my Life” is the life consecrated to the Lord. The first verse recognizes that it starts with “moments and days.” This is because small units become larger units. If we give God our moments, then days, eventually we will have given God our entire lives.

The following verses offer various body parts as metonyms. Our “hands” represent our work and service. Our “feet” represent our impulse for ministry. Our “voice” is an instrument of worship. Our “lips” indicate our offering words of encouragement.

We are consecrated, according to the hymn, by trusting God, living in the present, and being generous, moment by moment, piece by piece.

Is it at once easy—just moment by moment, day by day, one small part of our lives after another. But it is also very hard. Only three times in the hymn do we DO something on our own. (For grammar geeks, the times a first person active verb appears. The first is, “not a mite would I withhold.” The second is, “I pour my love at your feet.” And finally, “I will be ever, only, all for thee.”

Even this third example is contingent. It is in the future. It depends on God’s “taking.” The whole hymn is built on God’s “taking.” The reason this is important is because it is so hard for us to give up. It’s much easier to hold on, to assume and wait for more time, to be the fool. But Jesus calls us to trust God, to live in the present, and to be generous.

Recognizing how hard this is for us, “Take my Life” asks God to do it for us. And in this is grace: That God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Grace is the message of Christianity, from baptism to the Table: God gives us life; God gives us new life.

It was grace that came to the rich man that night. It freed him from his foolish assumptions. And this grace will come to us as well. God will say to us all, “This very night your life is demanded of you.” But in fact grace comes to us in all our moments, in all our days. May we have the faith to let go as God takes our lives.

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08.05.18 God’s Life and Ours 1 Cor. 3.10-15 Sermon Summary

In our “Hymns of Faith (Presbyterian Church)” series this week, we are invited to reflect upon the contribution our lives make to the work God has begun in Christ.

This is My Father’s World” was written by Maltbie Babcock (d 1901). He was a Presbyterian minister, noted musician, and avid hiker. His church assistant would regularly hear him say, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.”

In the first verse, Babcock reminds us that though the world belongs to God, God is not a distant watchmaker but a benevolent parent. Verse two tells us that while this revelation available to all, it is only those who have “listening ears” who will perceive it.

Finally, the third verse tells us that all things will be reconciled, or brought together, because regardless of what we observe or experience, “God is the ruler yet.” So wrongs will be made right, political chaos and injustice will not last forever, discord will cease, and even “earth and heaven” will experience reconciliation.

Augustus Toplady (d 1778) was an Anglican priest with Presbyterian theology. His hymn “Rock of Ages” draws from images in the lives of Moses and Elijah who were positioned amidst rocky mountains during God’s self-revelation. This image appears in several places throughout the Psalms, for example Psalm 18:2, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Toplady comments that Jesus’ death provides the double cure for sin. First, it cleanses us, but then it purifies us. Daily and in every moment we may start over and continuously improve. Verse two reminds us that in God alone is our salvation: Not in clean living, or hard work, or even heartfelt remorse. (Here Toplady’s Calvinism shines through. For Calvin these are the results of salvation, not the precursors to it.)

The next verse rightly presents baptism as a ritual clinging to the Cross. It represents our own death and resurrection—not the resurrection after this life, but a rebirth to righteousness in this life. Then in the final verse, Rock of Ages references our physical death, during and after which we find our refuge in God.

These lessons from these two hymns are highlighted when we remember that both authors died young. Babcock died while on a trip to the Holy Land, a gift from his congregation, when he was only forty-two. Toplady died when he was just thirty-eight.

Such short lives, yet these hymns survive. The authors did as Paul urges. They “built on the foundation of Christ” and “according to grace given them.” Paul says some will build with “gold, silver, precious stones,” and we might say these hymns are examples. Others, he says, will build with “wood, hay, straw.” The point is to build. We’re all to build with what we have, with who we are, according to the grace given US.

The assurance Paul offers is that WE will survive “the Day” when “fire” reveals our lives. It is a reference to a judgment or assessment of our lives. We will survive the fire because the foundation of Christ has been laid by God. The question facing us is, What ELSE of our lives will survive? Where are we investing our lives? Paul, and these hymns, call us to participate in God’s creative and re-creative work in Christ, that our lives, like his, may be found in God.

07.22.18 God’s Creativity and Ours Genesis 2:4, 7-9, 18-22 Sermon Summary

Continuing in our “Hymns of Faith (Presbyterian Church)” series, we consider two hymns that focus on the Creation.

Traditionally, the “Doctrine of Creation” emphasizes a number of theological points (“doctrine” simply referring to the official “teaching” of the church). One of these is the distinction between the Creator and the creation. Another is that God created the world “ex nihilo,” which means “out of nothing,” despite the fact that the Bible doesn’t really say that. The real point of the doctrine of “creatio ex nihilo” is that God’s Word exercises absolute power. The doctrine of Creation dovetails nicely with the RE-creation of the world by God’s Word Incarnate Jesus Christ.

But faith is more than doctrine. It is more than believing what the church teaches. And likewise Scripture is more than history. There are actually two creation stories in the Bible, with suggestions of the possibility of even more. And these stories cannot be reasonably reconciled.

Nor should they be. Take this example. Last week Eric and Sarah had a baby boy: Riley. Riley’s genes are Eric’s and Sarah’s. He will look like them and share some personality traits with them. But Riley is not simply the combination of Eric and Sarah. Riley is different, he is unique.

He can’t be explained just by referring to Eric and Sarah. Who he is must be allowed to develop. He has to express himself. Riley is more than Eric and Sarah. You are more than your parents. Creation is more than the stories in the Bible. These stories have to speak on their own. Creation has more to teach us than church doctrine.

Art helps us to recognize this:

  • visual art, like sunrises and paintings
  • kinesthetic art, like dogs playing in the park
  • aural art, like music
  • verbal art, like poetry

Our two hymns stretch us beyond doctrine with the art of music and poetry. They help us to understand that the Creation stories themselves are poetry and praise.

From this perspective, Creation says far more to us than the doctrine alone. The Nicene Creed says Jesus is the “only-begotten Son of God.” A later creed says he is “truly God, truly human.” These formulations refer to the doctrine of the “dual-nature” of Jesus which is necessary for effecting—or revealing—our salvation. This is doctrine and it is true.

But an artistic reading of the Creation story (the second one) says that just as the Spirit caused Mary’s pregnancy, so also the Spirit gives us life. “God breathed into our nostrils the breath of life.” We also have a dual nature. We are earthly and heavenly. We are human and divine. Jesus may be the only-begotten child of God, but we are the created children of God.

What is more, the Creation story says we have a special place: “Eden, in the East.” God has prepared this space for us. It’s a metaphor—don’t go looking for Eden. The point is what it represents. The special place reveals that we humans are responsible for the rest of Creation. This is the meaning of God charging the man with the naming of the animals.

In the special place ordained for us, we have to learn how to live. There is the Tree of Life and also the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. From this garden throughout our lives we are to discern good from evil and choose life.

What is more, we can’t do it alone. First God offers all Creation to help us. But then God provides a special helper—a partner, another human. Human partnership is required to live. This requirement is symbolized by one partnership in particular—marriage. But in truth, we all need one another.

Reading the Creation stories as poetry has many benefits. We see them as more than just history. Rather, they offer purpose in our present. They call us to more than just gratitude for the past. We are to be expectant in the present.

Today’s hymns invite and facilitate these attitudes.

In “Morning has Broken” today’s morning is like Eden’s morning. There are the same blackbirds, same water in rain and dew, same God whose “feet pass” among us. The lyrics of “Morning” span from Eden to this morning to God’s perpetual “recreation of the new day.” They refer to past, present, and future, to our origins, being, and destiny.

The lyricist was author Eleanor Farjeon, a beloved English children’s writer. She would have understood well that children get the concept of an “eternal now” better than adults. And this is why we need children in worship.

Describing “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” Albert Bailey (The Gospel in Hymns) wrote that it is an “intricate interweaving of fact and metaphor.” (p. 554) The same can be said of the Creation stories. I posit that there is a formula here: fact + metaphor = meaning. Think about the facts of your life, especially the hard ones. Filter them through metaphor, and they will become meaningful, constructive. That’s what art (and the Word of God) calls us to do.

So in “Joyful, Joyful” we have opening flowers that invite us to open our hearts. They to the sun in the sky, our hearts to the Son of heaven. While open, sin, sadness, and doubt are melted away.

All creation calls us to rejoice: Heavenly stars, earthly forests, birds and brooks—perpetually inviting us to joy. Yes, there is suffering in this life, but we are “victors in the midst of strife,” because “joyful music leads us sunward in the triumph song of life.”

There is a catch, however. While Creation “calls and invites us,” we can ignore the call. Most of the time, we do. Here’s what the commentary on Hymnary.org has to say about “Joyful, Joyful”.

“We have all heard this line over and over again, but it’s worth repeating: we rush through life too quickly to stop and be filled with joy. We allow the phone calls we have to make, the laundry we need to fold, the paper we need to write, and the porch we need to fix get in the way of simply stopping, looking around, and being filled with joy and gratitude at the world God has given us. It’s a world where we have people to call, children to clothe, knowledge to express, and parties to host. And more so than anything, even when it seems to be crumbling around us, it’s a world redeemed by Christ.”

One of the lessons of “Joyful, Joyful” is that to experience joy, we have to stop. We must cease what we’re doing for a while. This is the purpose of the Fourth Commandment to “remember the Sabbath” (from the first Creation story). It is to stop, to cease, to rest, to experience joy.

And this is why I appreciate the controversial pick-up note to the last stanza in the hymn. Some church musicians argue we should depart from Beethoven’s score and keep the straight, block rhythm. I disagree. Congregations stumble over the pick-up note, true enough, but only on the first verse. They get it by the end.

But the pick-up note serves rhythmically to do what the lyrics plead—it grabs our attention. It jolts us to awareness and says, “Wake up! Morning has broken! A new day in Eden is all around you. See it, and be joyful.”

07.01.18 God’s Hope and Ours Luke 6.46-49 Sermon Summary

We continue our summer series entitled “Hymns of Faith (Presbyterian Church)” by looking at “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”. This hymn is based on one of Jesus’ parables.

Jesus used parables to teach through stories that paint a picture. They are popular and enduring. Why? Because as is the case with all art, parables offer many points of entry. Everyone appreciates something personal but different about the parables. We relate to different characters, or identify with different actions in the parables.  This leads to diverse but personal interpretations.

There are two versions of this parable in the Bible: One in Matthew and one in Luke. Mathew’s version is the more popular. Many people don’t even know Luke’s version exists. Many people know this parable as “The Wise and Foolish Builders”, since that’s the language in Matthew.

But Luke’s version suggests other interpretations. For starters, Jesus more pointedly offers a critique of the church. He starts with, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do what I tell you?” Whereas Matthew’s Jesus is telling his disciples to follow his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, Luke’s Jesus is admonishing them—and us—for not doing so.

Second, only Luke tells us that the builder “dug deeply” to find the rock foundation for his house.

And third, whereas in Matthew the rains fall, the floods rise, and the winds blow against the house, in Luke, it’s a flood leading to a bursting river. We know this as a flash flood. The storm is sudden in Luke, while more sustained in Matthew.

So each parable presents two different emphases. In Matthew, you can endure stormy weather a long time if you hear and practice Jesus’ words. In Luke, you can survive a sudden storm. In both Gospels, however, the man builds his “house” upon the rock, whether the house refers to one’s life or the church.

This parable is the basis of “My Hope,” composed by a Baptist minister who in a moment of inspiration desired to write a hymn about the about “gracious experience of a Christian.” “My Hope” reflects Baptist theology, where the primary reason for Jesus is to save us from hell in the afterlife.

For the author, this attitude was confirmed by his experience with a dying parishioner. She was the first to hear the hymn, and it brought her great joy, peace, and hope. Consider especially last verse: “When Christ shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found.” This is a “last judgment” scene, where the singer is “dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.” This is the throne of an offended king who is about to render judgment. But in “My Hope,” Jesus’ “blood” cleanses us of the offending sin and saves us from judgment.

“My Hope” is about trust and hope during the judgment of our lives. But the parable on which it is based has a much broader application. The parable is about this life, before death, not an afterlife. And “My Hope” reflects this perspective also, for example, in verse three: “When darkness seems to hide his face, I rest on Christ’s unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.”

Another difference: “My Hope” says the rock is Christ—“On Christ the solid rock I stand”—but the parable suggests more. In the parable, “rock” refers to the words of Jesus, his teaching in words but also by example and in the pictures of parables. For Luke’s Jesus, getting to this rock requires “digging deeply.” It takes TIME.

John teaches this same truth in a parable of sorts—the story of Jesus walking on the storm. After full schedule of ministry including celebrating a religious holiday, regular worship, teaching, and feeding 5000 people, the disciples set across the lake in a boat. A storm rises and they become terrified. Jesus is nowhere to be found. Where is he?

According to John, Jesus had “withdrawn to mountain by himself.” Jesus was praying, probably giving thanks, remembering his foundation. Then Jesus comes walking on the water, speaks these words: “Do not be afraid”; and suddenly the boat arrives on the other side. It is delivered through the storm.

What is the difference between the disciples and Jesus? Why were they terrified in the storm while Jesus was tranquil, even able to rise above it and walk upon it? The disciples were tired. Jesus was rested. They were terrified. He was unafraid.

The next time a storm arose in their lives, I’m sure the disciples remembered this. And John wants us to remember it also. Like Jesus, we’re to find a special, quiet place where we can meet God, remember, and give thanks.

“Digging deep to the foundation” takes time—time for rest, reflection, and reconnecting with God. So when the storm comes, the judgment on our lives, whether final or before, whether “rain, floods, and wind” or “bursting river,” “in the whelming flood; when all around our soul gives way, Jesus then is all our hope and stay.”

May you take hold of this hope for your own life, and hold out this hope to the world.

05.20.18 Galatians 6.1-10 Christ, Spirit, and Us Sermon Summary

There are at least four answers to the question, What does it mean to live the “Christian life”?

The first is a cultural answer. To be Christian is to be American. And to be an American is to be a Christian. “What else could it mean to be Christian?” “What else could it mean to be an American?” I am reminded of a youth leader I had who pointed out to me that, “You are no more a Christina by being born in America than you are a car if you were born in a garage.”

The second is a doctrinal answer. A Christian lives according to certain statements. If you assent to various claims, “believe” certain things, then you are and will live a Christian life.

The third is a communal answer. You live a Christian lifestyle when you belong to a group, or “tribe,” or church.

And the fourth answer is a spiritual answer. The Christian life is recognized relative to the Spirit. When the Spirit is your guide and power, you live the Christian life. This sermon explores this final answer. It’s Pentecost, after all.

We begin by recognizing that the resurrected Jesus gave instructions to his disciples “through the Holy Spirit” according to Acts. We see that the Christian life according to the Spirit is not a matter of place so much. Jesus does say, “stay,” but he also says they will radiate out from  Jerusalem.”

Rather than tied to a place, the Christian life as determined by the Spirit is more a matter of activity. Jesus says, “be my witnesses.”

It is less a matter of culture—even though, “there were devout Jews from every nation”—and more a matter of message: Everyone was given the “gift of tongues” in order to hear and understand the Gospel.

And what is that Pentecost message? What is Spiritual Christianity? We gain insights from Galatians 6.

First, Spiritual Christianity is non-judgmental. Paul urges the faithful to “restore transgressors in a spirit of gentleness,” not a spirit of righteousness or condemnation.

Second, Spiritual Christianity is able to be gentle because it is humble. The faithful recognize their own vulnerability. This is why Paul says, “take care that you yourselves are not tempted.”

Third, Christianity is Spiritual when it recognizes that gentleness and humility are part of what it means to be loving. Paul says the faithful are to “bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.” What is that law? It is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Fourth, Spiritual Christianity is self-assessing. Paul says the faithful are to “test their own work.” Their pride is to come from the progress they make in their own spiritual life, not from comparing themselves with others.

Fifth, Spiritual Christianity is responsible. The faithful acknowledge the law of karma: We reap what we sow. Paul says if we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption. But if we sow to the Spirit, we will reap life.

Sixth, Spiritual Christianity is patient and persevering. The faithful are not to “grow weary in doing right,” for they will reap a harvest if they do not give up.”

Seventh, Spiritual Christianity is open and opportunistic. Paul writes, “whenever we have an opportunity, work for the good of all.”

Look around, and you will find many examples of Spiritual Christianity at Faith Presbyterian Church. At the last deacon meeting, someone came to the door seeking assistance. When they learned of our limits, they became belligerent. Nonetheless, one of our deacons offered assistance and came back an urged the rest of the board to pray for this family. That’s a non-judgmental and loving Spiritual Christianity.

Recently I was driving by the “big” Presbyterian church in town. I was at the back edge of their property and it was immaculate! I thought of the challenge we have in keeping our grounds nice and I was jealous. But then I remembered that they have a full time staff person whose sole responsibility is making the place look beautiful. We don’t. We have unpaid volunteers—lots of them—who  give of their time to work on our grounds bit by bit. And that made me proud. That’s an example of Spiritual Christianity being self-assessing verses comparing with others.

We talk about membership at Faith as taking responsibility for the church. People move from being consumers of the church to stewards of the church. Members show their responsibility for the church through financial support, volunteering, and serving in the ministry. If we’re growing in the Spirit, we find that we’re all called to do this—to take responsibility for the church.

By these examples, it’s clear that Spiritual Christianity begins with the Spirit, but it continues with us. The question facing each of us is, How are YOU following the Spirit?

If you will follow the Spirit, it will lead to a spiritual church which bears witness at Pentecost—and at all times—of the Spirit’s presence in the world.

06.10.18 God’s Faith and Ours Lamentations 3:17-26 Sermon Summary

The book of Lamentations is like a hymn. Each chapter we can see like a verse. Lamentations is a poem, expanding the utility of words. And when poems are set to music, the words become saturated. The setting is the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem. It was like 9/11 if the attacks were followed by the deportation of our prominent citizens and the occupation of our nation.

In the Hebrew Bible the title of this book is simply “How?”—the first word of the book. “How did this happen? How could this happen? How could YOU, God, let this happen?!” When religion is identified with a nation, what happens when that nation falters?

The people of Jerusalem were trying to make sense of it all. Lamentations is written as an acrostic poem, each line beginning with successive letters of the alphabet. It suggests that when all other structures fail, find a structure, something, anything, and begin rebuilding.

This summer we begin a new series: Hymns of Faith (Presbyterian Church). These are hymns chosen by you, related to the Bible, and discussed in sermon. Like no other medium, hymns encapsulate theology. Not all hymns are equal—some are better than others. This is why we are grateful for trusted hymnal editors. Today we look at one of the greatest hymns in the church’s repertoire.

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” was inspired by Lamentations 3:22-23. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases. God’s mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” These verses are part of the solution to the “how?!” question in Lamentations.

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” does not arise from such a traumatic event as that giving rise to the verses that inspire it, but it offers the same assurance. In the words of Lamentations 3, “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” If you cannot wait quietly, you could sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.

Verse one says, “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is not shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions fail not. As Thou has been, Thou forever will be.” Whatever else changes, God remains constant.

Does God change? The traditional answer is no. But the yes answer has gotten some traction lately. It’s hard to imagine that God is not moved by the suffering of his children and creation, that God doesn’t somehow change in response to our plight.

But God’s movement with us is faithful; God ALWAYS moves with us. No matter where we move or where life moves us, God faithfully moves with us. This movement of God with us is what is unchanging.

Verse one reminds us to “look back” and to remember how God has faithfully delivered us in the past. Verse two tells us to “look around”: “Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness, to Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.”

All nature manifestly witnesses to God’s faithfulness, mercy, love. These characters of God affirm that God IS indeed moved by our situation. As nature changes, yet remains constant, so God changes but remains sure.

This is the foundation of lament: God loves us and is merciful. Lamentation cries out to God to remind God of this. “Do something!” lament says. Lament reveals God’s faithfulness.

After looking back, then around, verse three directs us to “look ahead.” “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—blessings all mine, and ten thousand besides!” When we look, we discover that God guides us. God gives us hope for tomorrow.

Like Lamentations, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” calls us to look back, look around, and look ahead. It’s like a river or the wind: God’s faithfulness is a constant current surrounding us. We can surrender to the flow and join it for assurance, joy, and hope, even in disaster.

Like the acrostic of Lamentations, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” also uses structure. It is written in triple time, which brings to mind immediately the Trinity. Triple time marches, or better waltzes, forward with a constancy suggesting the faithfulness of God.

Likewise, there are patterns embedded in the hymn. The structure of the hymn is ABCD; EFC’D. This is to say, it evolves line by line, but if you follow it through to the end, the familiar returns. We have to be patient through the changes of life to recognize again the assuring C’ and D.

Another structural observation has to do with the second measures. Most of the second measures break the triple beat just enough to keep the tune from becoming monotonous. Given that, notice 2nd measure of E. It breaks with the pattern and in so doing emphasizes the word “faithfulness.” It draws the attention of our ears to this word which is the center of the hymn.

Then notice the second measure of F. In contrast to every other second measure, it does NOT change. Undergirding the lyrics “morning by morning new mercies I see,” the rhythm does not change. It suggests that morning by morning by morning by morning God’s constancy returns over and over again and again like clockwork.

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” is one of the greatest gifts to the church. It is relatively easy to memorize. Through words and music it summarizes the foundational truths of Bible—that we can live in hope and faith because God is faithful.

Prayers for Third Graders and Graduates

Prayer for Presentation of Bibles for Third Graders

God of Love, your Word is a light for our feet as we walk upon our path. You have given us the Bible as the words which guided your people of long ago. Now we are your people of today. Guide us also by these words, and new words which you continue to speak. Help us to hear your voice in the Bible and in the community of faith. Give your Spirit to these children, we pray, and bless them as they walk by the light of your word. And guide us as a church to care for these children, for in baptism we are all one family in Christ. Amen.

 

Prayer for High School Graduates

Faithful God, through the years we have made promises to the children of this congregation. In baptism we gave you thanks and pledged our ongoing support of their discovery and journey of faith. Now as they stand on the threshold of adulthood, completing high school and preparing to embark on the next stage of their lives, we pray for your ongoing blessing upon them. Give them courage to embrace the greater responsibilities with which we will entrust them. Remind them of your love whenever they have doubts. Empower them with your Spirit to serve others in love and to participate in your redemption of the world through Christ. Protect them, we pray, from the deceptions that will surround them. Preserve them in the circles of your grace. And as they explore their own calling, more apart from this congregation than ever before, may they always know the assurance of our eager welcome and enthusiastic support. Through Christ we pray. Amen.