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Notes on the Notes – March 16, 2014

Lent 2 – The Celtic Cross

Legalism vs Promise

This week’s scripture readings:  Genesis 12:1-4a, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

This week’s music:

“There is a Green Hill Far Away” (VU #152)

“There is a green hill far away, outside a city wall, where the dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell, what pains he had to bear;  but we believe it was for us he hung and suffered there.

There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin;  his death has opened wide the gate of heaven, to let us in.

O dearly, dearly has he loved, and we must love him too, and trust in his redeeming blood, and try his works to do.”

This hymn is one of a series written by Cecil Frances Alexander to explain the Apostles’ Creed to children and published in Hymns for Little Children (1848).  The subject of this hymn is the phrase from the Apostles’ Creed that says, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.”   Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) was only twenty years old when she composed the beautiful words of this hymn. Her inspiration is said to have come from a large grass-covered mound just outside her home town of Londonderry which put her in mind of the hill in the Holy Land, beyond Jerusalem’s gates, ‘where our dear Lord was crucified’. During her lifetime, Mrs Alexander wrote over four hundred hymns including Once in Royal David’s City and All things bright and beautiful, two hymns which have remained extremely popular with adults and children alike.
The tune, HORSLEY, was named after its composer, William Horsley (1774-1858), a London-born organist and composer who was one of the founders of the Philharmonic Society in London (1813). The flowing melody and simple harmonies of his hymn tune complement perfectly the fresh simplicity of Mrs Alexander’s poetry.

To see this hymn sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=d0ybUpuLn8M

“To Abraham and Sarah” (VU #634)

“To Abraham and Sarah the call of God was clear;  ‘Go forth and I will show you a country rich and fair.  You need not fear the journey for I have pledged my word:  that you shall be my people and I will be your God.’

From Abraham and Sarah arose a pilgrim race, dependent for their journey on God’s abundant grace;  and in their heart was written by God this saving word: ‘that you shall be my people and I will be your God.’

We of this generation on whom God’s hand is laid, can journey to the future secure and unafraid, rejoicing in God’s goodness and trusting in this word:  ‘that you shall be my people and I will be your God.'”

Judith Fetter wrote the words for this hymn in 1984.  It is based on the call of Abraham in the book of Genesis.  This text was written for the anniversary service of the United Church congregation of which her husband, Lawrence Fetter, was pastor. Hymnologist Paul Richardson states “This balladlike call to go to another culture, a summons to Sarah as well as to Abraham, anticipated by several years their acceptance of a ministry in Brazil.”  This hymn condenses the narrative of Genesis 17:1–22 and grounds it in the recurring statement of the covenant relationship between God and the people God has chosen.  Fetter has worked with United Church congregations in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia, and, with her husband, she spent several years at a Methodist mission in northeast Brazil.    The melody, THORNBURY, was written by English organist and composer, Basil Harwood, in 1898 for the text at #274 in Voices United, “Your hand, O God, has guided.” 

To hear the melody on organ click here:  Thornbury

“A Place in the Valley”

“There’s a place in the valley beside a cool and flowing stream, where the trees reach up to heaven and the ground is soft and green.  All the world is calm and peaceful, there’s a stillness in the air;  and I know that in the silence, God is listening, listening to my prayer.

When I’m there in the valley beneath the sky so clear and blue,  I can see creation’s glory.  All the earth seems fresh and new.  Nature’s song is all around me, blending peace and harmony;  and I know that in the music, God is calling, calling out to me.

I will lift my eyes up to the mountains, for I know my help will come from the Lord.  I will find all the strength and the comfort that I need and God’s grace will be my reward.

Let us go to the valley where golden sun breaks through the trees, and God’s love is all around us like a warm and gentle breeze.  Let us share this awesome wonder and rejoice in each new day.  For we know that every moment, God is showing, showing us the way…” 

This week’s anthem, by Don Besig and Nancy Price, was written in honor of Janet Gallagher and the music ministries of the United Church of Underhill, Vermont.  The song references Psalm 121.

“Above the Hills of Time”

“Above the hills of time the cross is gleaming fair as the sun when night has turned to day;  and from it love’s pure light is richly streaming, to cleanse the heart and banish sin away.  To this dear cross the eyes of all are turning today as in the ages lost to sight;  and so for thee, O Christ, our hearts are yearning as shipwrecked sailors yearn for early morning light.

The cross, O Christ, thy wondrous love revealing, awakes our hearts as with the light of morn, and pardon o’er our sinful spirits stealing tells us that we, in thee, have been reborn.  Like echoes to sweet temple bells replying, our hearts, O Lord, make answer to thy love;  and we will love thee with a love undying, till we are gathered to thy home above.”

The text for this hymn was written by Thomas Tipland (1882-1967) and is set to the traditional Irish melody “Londonderry Air,” more commonly known as the melody for the song “O Danny Boy.”  One of 10 child­ren born to Meth­od­ist par­ents, Tip­la­dy be­gan work­ing part time in a cot­ton mill at age 10, and left school by age 13, though he took pri­vate less­ons and at­tend­ed a tech­ni­cal school. He stu­died for the Wes­leyan Meth­od­ist min­is­try for three years at the Rich­mond The­o­lo­gi­cal Coll­ege in Lon­don, and en­tered the min­is­try in 1908. He served five years in Lon­don’s East End, at the Old Ford Miss­ion in the Pop­lar and Bow Circuit. In World War I, he was a chap­lain with the Queen’s West­min­ster Ri­fles in the Somme and Ar­ras cam­paigns in France. There he caught “trench fever,” which laid him up for some time; af­ter re­cov­e­ry, he was sta­tioned at Abbe­ville un­til the war’s end. Foll­ow­ing the war, he con­duct­ed a five month speak­ing tour in Amer­i­ca. Up­on re­turn to Eng­land, he was ap­pointed to the Bux­ton Road Church in Hud­ders­field, then be­came Su­per­in­tend­ent of the Lam­beth Mis­sion in Lon­don in 1922 and was there 32 years.   In addition to writing over 250 hymns, Tip­la­dy pi­o­neered the use of films in evan­gel­ism, helping found the Re­li­gious Film So­ci­e­ty of Lon­don. In 1931, he vi­sit­ed Amer­i­ca as a del­e­gate to the Ecu­men­i­cal Con­fer­ence of Meth­od­ism in At­lan­ta, Georg­ia, and there read a pa­per on “The Press and Mo­tion Pic­tures as In­ter­na­tion­al and Eth­ica­l Fac­tors.”

Fast fact:  This hymn was sung at the funeral for U.S. president John F. Kenney.  “11:35 a.m.: The cortege arrives at the White House. The Naval Academy Catholic Choir sang three selections at the north portico: “Above the Hills of Time the Cross Is Gleaming” (Londonderry Air) “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” and “Dona Nobis Pacem.” “

Hear James Galaway play the melody on flute at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=XGq4kXgeoCg

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