Our opening hymn, "The Trumpets Sound, the Angels Sing" joyfully invites us to the table of the King with love divine, trumpets and angels singing. Graham Kendrick has been described as 'father of modern worship music whose songs are crammed full of poetic, divine, biblical truth'. Three hymns of Kendrick's are in our hymnal, including perhaps his best known hymn "Shine, Jesus, Shine". Kendrick is based out of the UK and is an active advocate for the charity Compassion, encouraging audiences worldwide to understand worship as a way of life, and true intimacy with God as sharing in the concerns of his heart and participating in his mission to the world. Compassion operates in over 24 nations and facilitates the support of over a million children. Graham was one of the founders and songwriters behind the global phenomenon ‘March For Jesus’ which mobilized Christians to 'take the walls of the church' and bring praise, prayer and acts of goodwill and reconciliation to the streets.
"Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus" is our hymn of the day this week and I want to point out a very important word in the German song title that, in my humble opinion, perfectly reflects the message of our gospel. LASSET UNS MIT JESU ZIEHEN does, in a way, translate to the title of the hymn but the word ziehen can also mean "journey, be drawn into and journey with someone, to go, march, roam or pull". We are told this week "abide in me as I abide in you....I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete". To be drawn in with and journey with someone is much more intense for both parties than a casual stroll through the park and suggests a much deeper relationship. Sigismund von Birken wrote the text to this beautiful hymn. He was the son of an evangelical pastor who had to flee Bohemia for Nürnberg. Von Birken studied both law and theology, but left his studies incomplete, joining an order of poets and dabbling in tutoring; he would later become head of this poets’ society (the “Pegnitz Shepherd and Flower Order”), and while in leadership emphasized religious poetry. He received numerous honors for his art. "Jesus, I Will Ponder Now" is also one of his hymns that we regularly sing at GA during Lent. Ahasuerus Fritsch, the composer, was a German jurist, poet and hymn writer of the Baroque era. He was the first German legal scholar to deal with the danger of influencing the people by the press. Besides a large number of legal publications, he wrote religious hymns and devotional writings. Johann Sebastian Bach based his chorale cantata "Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen", BWV 123, for Epiphany 1725 on a hymn in six stanzas by Fritsch and used single stanzas in other cantatas.
I don't normally mention the extra music in the service (prelude, postlude etc.) but this week I wanted to call attention to the prelude. The prelude this week is by one of my new favorite composers, Jonathan Reuss. I discovered a book of his hymn arrangements at Augsburg Fortress last year and I'm hooked. Not only does it showcase some wonderful hymn tunes but the arrangements feature both subtle hints of the original text and some splashy, uplifting endings. The composer is equally interesting. During the day he works as an information technology analyst and designer and by night as the choir director and organist at a Midwest Lutheran church. While encouraged to think about attending seminary he found his 'preaching call' through music and is quoted as saying "singing a hymn is to pray twice". I hope you enjoy listening to his music as much as I like playing it.