Tag Archives: liturgy

This is the Feast #2

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For those who are unfamiliar with this canticle which I mentioned in my last post, I thought I would post the music with lyrics.

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Why We Sing

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This article was originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador

Lutherans are known as “the singing church” and Martin Luther has been called “the father of congregational singing.” But why do we sing? Is it simply our tradition? Is it an appropriate way to express our emotions of gratitude and love toward God? Is it a biblically sanctioned part of worship (Psalm 66:1-2)? Does it help bind us together as a community? The answer is yes to all these questions about communal Christian singing in the Church. However, there is another excellent reason Lutherans sing: hymn singing is an important part of our Christian education.

Maybe you thought the children were just having fun singing all those Sunday School songs. They are having fun, but they are also learning about important people in the Bible (Father Abraham), the essentials of the faith (Jesus Loves Me), the proper response to God’s love (Praise Him, Praise Him, All You Little Children) and what it means to be part of the church (We Are the Church).

Setting words to music is an aid to memorization. Young people often learn the books of the Bible (in order no less) by singing a song. Adults who participate in a Lutheran liturgy discover they’ve memorized many Psalms and other portions of scripture by taking part in the worship service. Well chosen hymns also serve to reinforce the theme of the sermon and the readings of the day. And in times of crisis in our lives the comforting words of hymns bring the reminder of God’s eternal concern for His people to our minds and hearts.

Good hymns teach. They help us understand the different church seasons (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel). They prepare us for communion (Let Us Break Bread Together). They tell us about the attributes of God (A Mighty Fortress). They convict us of our sin (Amazing Grace). They explain theological concepts (The Church’s One Foundation) and give lessons in how to serve (Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling) and be more generous (We Give Thee But Thine Own). Some hymns are almost a sermon in themselves (Salvation Unto Us Has Come)!

Church music can touch our hearts and sink into our souls in a way that is hard to explain or understand. Church music can lift us up into the very realm of God’s presence. No wonder Luther called it “a fair and glorious gift of God.”

 

It’s Me

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“Standing in the Need” is an African American spiritual, and, like many folk songs, its origin is unknown. Both text and tune became well known after their publication in The Book of American Negro Spirituals (1925), compiled by James Weldon Johnson and his brother,]. Rosamond Johnson.

Using hyperbole, or exaggerating to make a point, the text brings a very specific message: “I need prayer!” Obviously all the other persons mentioned in the text need prayer as well-yet the text stresses the individual’s need for prayer. Such an understanding of this text permits its use in corporate worship-in which we all realize that each of us needs prayer just as much as all of us need prayer. The text emphasizes personal responsibility within a larger context of community.

Liturgical Use:
As a call to prayer, this song should be part of a time of sung and spoken and silent prayers-for forgiveness, of course, but also for healing, for gratitude, for more fervent faith, and so on.

This song came to mind when I was reading Praying for Strangers.  One of the lessons the author learned is that everybody needs prayer.

It’s me, it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer.
It’s me, it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer.

1 Not my mother or my father, but it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer;
not my mother or my father, but it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer. [Refrain]

2 Not my brother or my sister, but it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer;
not my brother or my sister, but it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer. [Refrain]

3 Not the stranger or the neighbour, but it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer;
not the stranger or my neighbour, but it’s me, O Lord,
standing in the need of prayer. [Refrain]

Liturgy as Prayer

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“The liturgy of the Word is prayer.  You pray the scriptures with, and for, the people assembled and the words go out to them, touching them in ways that only God can imagine.”

Kathleen Norris

The congregation I belong to, St. Paul’s Free Lutheran, is liturgical.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Liturgy, in Greek, means “work of the people.”  It’s something we participate in together, the body of Christ in this place.  If prayer is communicating with God, the liturgy is also prayer.  In the familiar words, many of them directly from the Scripture we confess to God, we sing His praises,  and thank Him.  We intercede for others.  We offer our gifts for His use.

God speaks to us as well through the reading and sermons.  He offers us forgiveness and the gift of His body and blood to strengthen us.  He sends us out with renewed minds and spirits to do His work in the world.  Here’s a quote by Thomas Merton which reminds me of what the liturgy does:

“….(prayer) is  the needle by which we draw the thread of charity through out neighbor’s soul and our own soul and sew ourselves together in one Christ.”

Through the liturgy God weaves us into a community.  It doesn’t matter if we are old or young, rich or poor, black or brown or white, educated or ignorant, for this brief time we become one in Christ and it changes us.  It changes us because when we pray together, we become God’s kingdom on earth.

How does your worship experience change you?  Please send us your comments.