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Notes on the Notes – March 29, 2020

Lent 5

On the edge of change

John 11:1-45

This week’s music:

Lenten Response (VU #121)

“God of all our fear and sorrow,
God who lives beyond our death;
Hold us close through each tomorrow,
Love as near as every breath,
Love as near as every breath.

Gentle Jesus, mighty Spirit,
Come inflame our hearts anew,
May we all your joy inherit
If we bear the cross with you,
If we bear the cross with you.

Each week during the season of Lent, we will be using selected verses of the hymn “Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery,”  written by Marty Haugen (1984).

“Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” (VU #651)

“Guide me, O though great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty, hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more,
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through.
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer, be thou still my strength and shield,
Be though still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction, land me safe on Canaan’s side;
Songs of praises, songs of praises I will ever give to thee
I will ever give to thee.”

William Williams was a hymn writer (in Welsh and English) and an itinerant preacher during the Welsh revival of the 1740s. The theme of this hymn, written in Welsh in 1745, is the Israelites’ return to the promised land.  More generally, the hymn confesses our human weakness, and trust in God’s divinity to bring us through the wilderness of life to a home in heaven.  The tune CWM RHONDDA was composed in 1905 by John Hughes, the precentor at Llantwit Fardre chapel, for a Baptist Cymanfau Ganu (Singing Festival) in Pontypridd.

Sing along with choirs and congregation at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT4n1hGjDDg

“God Gives Us a Future”

“God gives us a future, daring us to go
Into dreams and dangers on a path unknown.
We will face tomorrow in the Spirit’s power,
We will let God change us, for new life starts now.

Holy Spirit, teach us how to read the signs,
How to meet the challenge of our troubled times.
Love us into action, stir us into prayer,
Till we choose God’s life, and find our future there.”

The words for this song were written by Elizabeth J. Smith.  The tune comes from the French Christmas carol (NOEL NOUVELET).

Hear an instrumental version of the song at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWDjBdxtM2c

“Lord, Help Us When We’re Frightened”

“Lord help us when we’re frightened and feel ourselves alone,
Lead us to God who gives us good bread and not cold stone,
Good bread and not cold stone.

By faith we see when darkness hides meaning from our eyes.
By faith we walk with courage when strength within us dies.

With hope we face tomorrow and look beyond this day.
With hope we journey onward when we can’t see our way,
When we can’t see our way.

In love we’re bound together and freed from crippling fear.
The love that was in Jesus shows us that God is near.

Lord help us when we’re frighted and feel ourselves alone,
Lead us to God who gives us good bread and not cold stone,
Good bread and not cold stone.”

This song was written with words by Walter Farquharson and music by Ron Klusmeier (1979).

About the song by Walter Farquharson:

“Probably nothing is more overwhelming than the sense of being left, being abandoned, deserted, alone. Experienced from birth, perhaps even prenatally, fear may not be articulated but it is felt. As dependent creatures we cannot survive abandonment. A child is separated from a parent in an unfamiliar place, is in a place of not hearing familiar voices, waits with worry because the person who was to meet her hasn’t shown up, faces a bully without a champion nearby, is startled by the storm that has come up too quickly and home seems far away – these are probably commonplace experiences of growing up even in the most secure and sheltered of environments. Some children experience the reality of family displacement, unimaginable separations, places of not knowing because of illness, a survival of accident or natural disaster. Throughout life we experience the pre-adolescent, the teen, the youth, the variety of adult fears, anxieties, terrors.

How often the word of the Lord comes in Scriptural story, in Psalms and prophetic word, whispering or shouting in the storm “Fear not. You are not alone. You are not abandoned.”

Too often that has sounded like scolding for being afraid, for lacking faith, for not trusting God, for not being able to believe in the efficacy of whistling in the dark or believing that there is always a ‘purpose’ in what is happening.

In reality it is a word of encouragement. I hear the word and I know I am not alone – however much I thought I was.

The gospel of Jesus , the story of Jesus from angel song to Mary and Joseph and to startled shepherds – to the emptiness, confusion and anger of threatened disciples on the road to Golgotha – to the garden of the resurrection or the walk to Emmaus – still says. “Do not be afraid. You are not alone. You do not walk alone. Ever.”

The United Church Creed says, “We are not alone. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. Thanks be to God.”

One winter evening, before I had started school, my family visited at my Grandmother’s home a mile down the road. Travel was by a sleigh drawn by a team of horses. After the evening meal the family dressed for the frosty trip down the road to home. I opted to stay the night with my Grandmother – a sleepover.

By bedtime it no longer felt like such a good idea – I began to feel alone, homesick, anxious, afraid. The upstairs room I was to share with my uncle seemed like an alien place. There were calls down announcing my desire to go “home”. Words of encouragement called up the stairs from my uncle and from my Grandmother. Then, another message. My Uncle Bert called up, “Better get up, Wattie, up and dressed. I’ll take you home.”

A few minutes later, well bundled in warm clothes, I was on my uncle’s shoulders and we were on our way down the road, snow crunching beneath his feet, his breath and mine easily seen in the still, clear, very frosty night. He named stars and constellations for me, identified neighbour’s distant farm lights, talked of the coyotes, snowy owls, weasels and mice that would be sharing the evening moonlight with us.

No complaining, no words of judgment, no warnings of dire consequences if there was ever a repeat performance. He spoke too of being afraid, of how natural it was, of how sometimes it served us well, about times he had been afraid and how sometimes he still knew fear.

“In love we’re bound together and freed from crippling fear. The love that was in Jesus shows us that you are near.”

And, in people like Uncle Bert.”

(Source:  https://musiklus.com/product/god-help-us-when-were-frightened/)

“Spirit God, Be Our Breath” (MV #150)

“Spirit God: be our breath, be our song.
Blow through us, bringing strength to move on.
Our world seems inward, defensive, withdrawn…
Spirit God, be our song.

Patient God: soothe our pride, calm our fear.
Comfort us.
When we know you are near we grow more certain, our vision is clear.
Patient God, calm our fear.

Loving God: be our voice, be our prayer.
Reaching out, joining hands as we share,
We seek your guidance through friendship and care.
Loving God, be our prayer.

Spirit God: be our breath, be our song.
Blow through us, bringing strength to move on.
Through change, through challenge, we’ll greet the new dawn.
Spirit God, be our song.”

This song, with words and music by Bruce Harding, was written in 1997.   The lyrics remind us that God will be with us through the changes that we will see as we move forward in faith.

Hear the song:

Bonus videos:


Categories: Notes on the Notes