From: Richard Thomas
The introit is "We Come before Thee" by Dr. Robert J. Hughes of Greenville, SC. He used the pseudonym “James Denton” for this work. He also used the pseudonyms “James Moffat” and “John Johnson.”
He was born in Canada (on 30 May 1916) and died in South Carolina. During World War II, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was appointed Bandmaster of the Eastern Air Command Band.
His doctorate was from Oxford University, England. The subject of his dissertation was “the development of a volunteer music program.”
According to his gravestone in Greenville, SC, he was “Promoted to Glory” on 31 July 1999. There is part of treble staff on his side of the headstone.
The opening hymn is no. 467, “How Great Thou Art.” The hymn is Swedish, “O Store Gud (O Mighty God),” and was authored by Carl Gustave Boberg (16 Aug 1859 – 07 Jan 1940).
Carl Gustav Boberg
Our English translation is not, however, a translation of the original hymn in Swedish.
It was instead translated from a Russian version that was itself based on a German translation of the Swedish hymn. The English translation is by Stuart K. Hine in 1949.
So we will be singing an English translation of a Russian translation of a German translation of a Swedish hymn.
Boberg was a carpenter’s son. He was a member of the Swedish Parliament from 1912 to 1931.
The translator, Stuart K. Hine, was born in Great Britain in 1899. He and his wife were missionaries in Western Ukraine, which was part of Russia at the time. He died in 1989.
The tune, O STORE GUD, is a Swedish folk melody.
You can hear it sung in Swedish, with a blues band arrangement here:
https://youtu.be/lXAfNEl0erw “O Store Gud” performed by the Mönsterås Blues Band, Calle Engström on guitar
A video of Elvis Presley singing the hymn is tacked onto the end of the blues band performance. Elvis is wearing a cape, like a superhero.
The hymn gained great popularity during the heyday of the Billy Graham crusades. George Beverly Shea would sing it at every service.
Here’s George Beverly Shea singing “How Great Thou Art.”
https://youtu.be/kUUm_I6-s3s “How Great Thou Art,” sung by George Beverly Shea, Billy Graham Crusade, New York, 1969.
He was still singing “How Great Thou Art” at age 103! http://youtu.be/mdF1wR98OeE
George Beverly Shea was born on 01 Feb 1909. Mr. Shea died on 16 Apr 2013 at age 104 due to complications following a stroke. Recordings of his own singing (including “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” by Fanny Crosby) were played at his funeral.
Here is an a cappella rendition:
https://youtu.be/ICcjgBrG-oM “How Great Thou Art,” a cappella by Reprise Quartet (beautiful voices)
After the talk with the children, the choir will sing “When the Angels’ Song is Silent” by Mary Kay Beall.
Mary Kay Beall (b. 1943) was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. She has a B.M. degree from Ohio Wesleyan and an M.A. from the Ohio State University. She lives in Columbus, Ohio. She was ordained in the American Baptist Church.
The Old Testament lesson is Psalm 27 verse 1, then verses 4 through 9.
It always piques me (in both senses) when the lectionary reading skips verses. My first thought is, why are these verses being skipped? Sometimes the reason is obvious; often it isn’t. Here are all the verses:
Yahweh is my light and my deliverer,
whom shall I fear?
Yahweh is the fortress of my life,
whom should I dread?
When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
they—my opponents, my enemies—
are the ones who stumble and fall.
Though an army pitch camp against me,
my heart will not fear,
though war break out against me,
my trust will never be shaken.
One thing I ask of Yahweh,
one thing I seek:
to dwell in Yahweh’s house
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the splendor of Yahweh,
to contemplate his temple.
For he will surely give me shelter
in the day of danger,
he will hide me in his home,
he will place me on a rocky summit.
Now I will triumph
over the enemies who surround me;
I will offer sacrifices in his dwelling place
and shout for joy!
I will make music, I will sing praises to Yahweh!
Hear me, Yahweh, when I cry out!
Have mercy on me and answer me!
Of you my heart has said,
‘Seek his face!’
Your face, Yahweh, I seek;
do not turn away from me.
Do not thrust aside your servant in anger,
without you I am helpless.
Do not abandon me, never forsake me,
God, my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
Yahweh will take me in.
Yahweh, teach me how you want me to live,
lead me on the path of integrity
because of those who wait to ambush me!
Do not abandon me to the will of my foes—
for false witnesses want to destroy me,
and testify against me.
This I believe: I shall see the goodness of Yahweh,
in the land of the living.
Put your hope in Yahweh, be strong, let your heart be bold,
put your hope in Yahweh.
The gospel reading is Matthew 4:12-23. Verses 4:15 and 16 quote Isaiah 9:1, which is read every Christmas Eve. The next verses are a different account of the calling of Andrew and his brother Simon (nicknamed “Stony”— or “Peter” in Greek or “Cephas” in Aramaic). The calling of Andrew and his brother was read from the gospel of John last week.
Andrew and Simon are fisherman and Jesus says to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.” Some commentators have suggested Jesus may have said this because the work of evangelism is as difficult and as unpredictable as fishing with a net. It requires “persistence and dedication to the task (often in spite of minimal results).”
The second hymn is “As Deer Long for the Streams,” no. 189.
The words are by Christopher L. Webber and are based on Psalm 42:
As a deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God!
I thirst for God,
for the living God. . . .
Christopher L. Webber (1932- )
Christopher Webber is a graduate of Princeton University and of the General Theological Seminary in NYC. He has written a number of books, including Beyond Beowulf, Welcome to the Episcopal Church, and Re-Thinking Marriage.
He now lives in Sharon, Connecticut, and makes maple syrup every year.
The tune is ROCKINGHAM (Miller), an adaptation of the tune TUNEBRIDGE.
Edward Miller (1735-1807) of Norwich and Yorkshire harmonized the tune in 1790. He named the tune for his friend, Charles Watson-Wenworth, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. It is the tune to which “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is usually sung.
[In 1752 Rockingham was appointed Lord of the Bedchamber to George II. Under George III, Lord Rockingham was appointed Prime Minister, but, due to dissent in the cabinet, served in that post only from 1765-1766. He did succeed in repealing the Stamp Act, but also had a bill passed that affirmed the British Parliament had full authority to pass whatever legislation was required to govern and provide funds for protecting the colonies.]
2nd Marquess of Rockingham
I couldn’t find anyone singing “As Deer Long for the Streams.” (I did find people singing “As the Deer Panteth for Water,” and “As the Deer Long for Flowing Streams—sung to O WALY WALY—which are other hymns based on the same psalm, but here is the choir of Kings College, Cambridge, singing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” to the same tune at Eastertide.
http://youtu.be/Z9eCUqz_x5A “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” Kings College, Cambridge, sung to ROCKINGHAM --- with a descant
The sermon title is “The Proximity of God.”
The closing hymn is no. 248, “You Are Before Me, Lord.” The words are by Ian Pitt-Watson. He authored the hymn in 1973 and then modified the words in 1989. It is a “versification” of Psalm 139.
Ian Pitt-Watson was the son of the Very Reverend Professor James Pitt-Watson, who was the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and also held an royal appointment as a Queen’s Chaplain. Ian Pitt-Watson was born in Dalmuir, Glasgow, Scotland, on 15 Oct 1923. His father was a professor of practical theology at Trinity College, Glasgow University.
Ian Pitt-Watson grew up in a manse in Alloa in the Central Lowlands of Scotland on the north bank of the Firth of Forth. He attended Dollar Academy, then majored in philosophy and moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He also attended the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Ian Pitt-Watson was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1950. He served at the Cathedral Church of St. Giles in Edinburgh for two years then became a chaplain at the University of Aberdeen until 1958. He also was pastor at St. James, Forfar, and at New Kilpatrick in Bearsden in 1961. [When I was in a bagpipe band, we had our own tartan made for us by the Strathmore Woollen Company Ltd of Forfar, Scotland.]
From 1974 until 1980, he taught at the University of Aberdeen. In 1980, he moved to Pasadena, California, to teach at Fuller Theological Seminary where he was professor of preaching and practical theology.
[Fuller Theological Seminary was founded by Charles E. Fuller, a radio evangelist whose program was called the Old Fashioned Revival Hour. They had great music with a wonderful pianist. Years ago, I purchased some of their music CDs. “The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago” is one of my favorites:
https://youtu.be/RhFbzI7r24c “The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago” sung by the Old Fashioned Revival Hour Quartet ]
Ian Pitt-Watson was the author of Lively Oracles: Seven Studies for Youth Fellowships on Great Themes of the Bible (1956), Preaching: A Kind of Folly (1976), and A Primer for Preachers (1986).
Although he was a hymn writer, during his lifetime he had a worldwide reputation for his skills as a preacher. He preached regularly on the BBC and ITV. In 1962, he presented a radio series in Scotland called “Why I Believe.”
A friend, the Rev. Professor Murdo Ewan Macdonald, said that Ian Pitt-Watson also had a “huge sense of humor, and a highly developed sense of the absurd.”
Ian Pitt-Watson died on 11 Jan 1995 at St. John’s Hospice, Westminster, London.
The words of Ian Pitt-Watson’s hymn are sung to a different tune, HIGHLAND CATHEDRAL, here:
https://youtu.be/PRnQtCPw9Sk?t=25s “You Are Before Me, Lord,” a congregation sings verses 1, 3, and 5.
These must be the 1973 words, as “thou,” “thy,” and “thee” have been replaced with “you” and “your” in the blue Presbyterian Hymnal.
The tune is SURSUM CORDA (Smith) by Alfred Morton Smith.
Alfred Morton Smith was born in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, in 1879. He received a B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1901 then attended the Philadelphia Divinity School where he obtained a B.D. (1905) and a S.T.B. (1911). He was an Episcopalian and was ordained a priest in 1906.
He was the minister at St. Matthias Church in Los Angeles for ten years, then a chaplain in the U. S. Army during World War I.
After the Great War he returned to Philadelphia. He retired in 1955 and in 1963 moved to Drium Moir, Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. In 1968, he moved to Brigantine New Jersey, and he died there in 1971.
I was able to find someone singing a hymn to this tune IN FINNISH! Here is Enne Purovaara:
https://youtu.be/-s5UiF7uJo4 “Kun päivä laskee Emmauksessa (When the Day Falls at Emmaus)” sung to the tune SURSUM CORDA (Smith) by a Finnish lad
Here is a better recording by a choir (also in Finnish):
https://youtu.be/yzBN3NFebx8 “Kun päivä laskee Emmauksessa (When the Day Falls at Emmaus)” sung a cappella to the tune SURSUM CORDA (Smith)
The prelude is "Nun lob, mein Seel’, den Herren (Now Praise, My Soul, the Lord)" by Dieterich Buxtehude. Buxtehude’s piece by that name has four parts, BuxWV 212, 213, 214, and 215. We will probably hear only one of them.
https://youtu.be/5USX4r0SLDA "Nun lob, mein Seel’, den Herren," BuxWV 212 by Dieterich Buxtehude
https://youtu.be/0mLARMM2dSY "Nun lob, mein Seel’, den Herren," BuxWV 213, 214, and 215 by Dieterich Buxtehude
"Un soupir de Faust: Pensée Fugitive," Op. 252, by Jacques-Louis Battmann (b. 25 Aug 1818, Masevaux, France; d. 07 Jul 1886, Dijon, France) is the offertory music.
I couldn’t find a recording of “Fleeting Thoughts,” but I did find this little piece by Jacques-Louis Battman:
https://youtu.be/QYRxp0MMI7g J. L. Battmann’s “Morceau No. 60,” played on a harmonium by Chris
Here’s some other very pleasing little pieces by Battmann played on a reed organ:
https://youtu.be/dbIneZeFdIU J. L. Battmann’s “Pastorale” played on a reed organ by Chris
https://youtu.be/atOGpG19pvE “Townsend March” by Jacques-Louis Battman played on a reed organ by Chris S.
The postlude is "Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu Uns Wend (Lord Jesus Christ, Turn Toward Us)," (or, “Lord Jesus Christ, Be Present Now”), probably by Bach, as he wrote several pieces that have that name.
There is a chorale, BWV 333, but the postlude will probably be BWV 632 from J. S. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book).
https://youtu.be/V2YsDUp6gqs "Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu Uns Wend (Lord Jesus Christ, Turn Toward Us)," BWV 632, by J. S. Bach, played by Mark Pace, at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee
Here it is played at a much different tempo by Keiko Utsumi, a woman in Japan:
https://youtu.be/V2YsDUp6gqs "Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu Uns Wend (Lord Jesus Christ, Be Present Now),” BWV 632, played by Keiko Utsumi, at J. F. Oberlin University, Tokyo