Sunday, February 21, 2016

Prayers for Comfort in Affliction

Psalm 34:18 - Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have crushed spirit. (WEB).

File:Clasped hands.jpg

David's words are still true today. And they are so needed today in light of the many who are afflicted, suffering from storm and from violence.

Dear Father, You taught us in Your Word that You do not willingly afflict or grieve us. Look with pity on the sorrow of these who are suffering. Remember them in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with Your goodness, lift Your face upon them, and give them peace. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Remembering Those Who Have Gone Before

Cloud Shielding The Sun
Cloud Shielding the Sun, by Lynn Greyling

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (WEB).

Dear Father, we remember our bothers and sisters who have gone on before us. We thank you for giving them to us, to know and to love as companions on our earthly pilgrimage. In Your great love and compassion, console us who mourn for these. Give us faith to see in death the gateway to eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our own course on this earth, until, by Your call, we are reunited with them; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Morning Has Broken

Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (WEB).

Eleanor Farjeon (1881 - 1965) grew up in the literary and dramatic circles of London, the daughter of novelist Benjamin Farjeon. Eleanor began her professional carrier in her teens on the operatic stage. Later, she had great success in writing and eventually published about 80 works in all. She wrote books for children and books adults, but she especially loved writing for children.

Around 1930, editor Percy Dearmer was preparing a hymn collection and asked Eleanor to contribute a hymn for children. In his request, Dearmer had two specific requirements. First, the song had to give thanks for each new day. Second, the text had to be set to a Scottish tune known as "Bunessan", which had first appeared in print in 1900 and had already been paired with Mary MacDonald's Christmas carol, "Child in the Manger". With these requirements, Eleanor created a lilting hymn that linked the creation stories of Genesis 1 and John 1, and reminded the singer that each new day was a gift from God. The text praised God for the sights and sounds of the new day and compared each dawn to the very first day in the Garden of Eden. The hymn first published in 1931, as part of Dearmer's second edition of Songs of Praise.
Morning has broken
like the first morning,
blackbird has spoken
like the first bird.
Praise for the singing!
Praise for the morning!
Praise for the springing
fresh from the Word!

Sweet the rain's new fall
sunlit from heaven,
like the first dewfall
on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness
of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness
where his feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight!
Mine is the morning
born of the one light
Eden saw play!
Praise with elation,
praise every morning,
God's recreation
of the new day!


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Psalm 46:1-3 - God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we won’t be afraid, though the earth changes, though the mountains are shaken into the heart of the seas; though its waters roar and are troubled, though the mountains tremble with their swelling. (WEB)

Martin Luther (1483 - 1546), a German professor of theology, composer, priest, and former monk, came to reject several teachings and practices of the Late Medieval Catholic Church. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the power and usefulness of indulgences in his Ninety-Five Theses of 1517, which he posted on the door of Wittenberg's Castle. This act began years of trial and persecution for Luther. His refusal to retract all of his writings, at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521, resulted in Luther's excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor. Luther continually faced threats against his life and his freedom. And Luther knew that other reformers had been persecuted and burned at the stake. But Luther put his trust in God and in Scripture passages such as Psalm 46.

In 1529, Luther wrote his hymn based upon Psalm 46, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"). It has been called the one hymn that most symbolizes the Protestant Reformation. In the hymn, Luther proclaims his confidence in God and rallies all Christians to war against evil. It is said that those persecuted and martyred for their convictions during the Reformation sang these words.

The hymn has been translated from German into nearly every language, and there are said to be over eighty English translations alone. The version most used in the United States is the translation published in 1853 by Frederic Henry Hedge (1805 - 1890). The first line of this hymn is inscribed on Luther's tomb at Wittenberg.

A Might Fortress Is Our God
German text by Martin Luther, 1529.
English translation by Frederic H. Hedge, 1853.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever

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Monday, February 15, 2016

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Jeremiah 10:12-13 - He has made the earth by his power, he has established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding has he stretched out the heavens: when he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he makes lightnings for the rain, and brings the wind out of his treasuries. (WEB).

"I Sing the Mighty Power of God" was written by Isaac Watts (1674 - 1748). Since the early twentieth century, the text has normally been paired a tune sometimes called Forest Green, a traditional English melody arranged in 1906 by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958).

The hymn was originally included in a hymnal written for children, where it was entitled "Praise for Creation and Providence". Isaac Watts loved children. In 1715 he published the collection entitled Divine and Moral Songs for Children. In the preface, Watts wrote, "Children of high and low degree, of the Church of England or Dissenters, baptized in infancy or not, may all join together in these songs. And as I have endeavored to sink the language to the level of a child’s understanding . . . to profit all, if possible, and offend none." At the time of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther instructed his followers to sing hymns. However, the reformer John Calvin only allowed the singing of versified, or paraphrased, Scripture. By the time of Isaac Watts, the singing of psalms had become dull and lifeless. When Watts was 19 years old, he complained to his father about this. His father then challenged him to write something better. Watts then proceeded to write hundreds of hymns. In spite of being called "flights of fancy" by his contemporaries, and causing dissention in churches, Watts’ hymns are still sung and loved today. Instead of paraphrasing Scripture, "I Sing the Mighty Power of God" compiles imagery from multiple passages: the story of Creation, Genesis 1; Psalm 19:1-3; Psalm 95:3-6, the creation hymn, Psalm 104, and Jeremiah 10:12-13.

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
[or I sing th’almighty power of God…]
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Martin Luther and the Healing Power of Music

Religious reformer Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 – February 18, 1546) was the author of many hymns and chorales that remain the foundation of Protestant church music. It is said that without Luther, there could have been no Bach.

Martin Luther in 1533, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

In his later years, Luther suffered many ailments, including Ménière's disease, vertigo, fainting, tinnitus, and a cataract in one eye. Luther saw these as the efforts of Satan to prevent Luther from doing his important work.

Often when Luther was at work in his study, he felt that Satan was perturbing him. Once he had been locked inside for some time, not even demanding food, when Lucas Edenberger, preceptor of Duke Ernst of Saxony, arrived with some musicians to visit Luther. When he did not answer their knocking on the door, Edenberger looked through the keyhole and saw Luther lying on the floor unconscious, his arms outstretched. Edenberger broke open the door, lifted Luther up in his arms and, together with his companions, began to sing. Luther regained consciousness slowly, his melancholy departed and before long he began to sing with them. He then asked Lucas and his companions to visit him often and never to let themselves be turned away no matter what Luther was doing; for Luther believed that the Satanic influences and sadness left him as soon as he heard music.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Eternal Father, Strong to Save

In 1860, a teacher wrote a poem for a student. The teacher was William Whiting (1825 - 1878), originally from Kensington, England. Whiting was then the master of Winchester College Choristers' School in Hampshire. One of his students was about to sail to the United States and Whiting gave him a prayer, in written form, asking the Eternal Father to protect him, as well as all others who were in peril on the see. The text soon became more widely known and the following year, 1861, Anglican clergyman John B. Dykes (1823 - 1876) composed a tune to accompany the words. Dykes called his tune "Melita," an archaic term for Malta, an ancient island seafaring nation which was a colony of the British Empire and the site of a shipwreck which included among the passengers the Apostle Paul (Acts 27-28).

This beautiful hymn is traditionally associated with the Royal Navy, the Corps of the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force, and the British Army, as well as the navies of the British commonwealth. In the United States, the hymn is associated with the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Marine Corps.

Each verse of the original text has references to particular biblical events. The first verse refers to God forbidding the waters to flood the earth as described in Psalm 104. The second verse refers to Jesus' miracles of stilling a storm and walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The third verse references the Holy Spirit's role in the creation of the earth in the Book of Genesis. And the final verse is a reference to Psalm 107.

Over time, the hymn text has been altered by various parties for various reasons. One alteration was made to include more references to travel on land. And some alterations were made to add more modes of transportation, including in the air, and in outer space.

Here is the original text.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.


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