Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Here we are, in this season between celebration and solemnity, between the Nativity and the Passion. Through these weeks in traditional Christian worship, the Church looks in on the life and ministry of Jesus, specifically at those occasions in which he "manifested his glory" (see the Gospel of John especially). "Manifest/Manifestation" is the English translation of "Epiphany." I love what this hymn does to show us Jesus in Palestine, where as St. John said, "we have seen his glory, full of grace and truth." And then, like John, looking into our future as well.

I am not writing about more of this season, but do want to share this hymn. The wedding at Cana, John chapter 2, is said to be where Jesus first manifested his glory. It is but one of a significant string of biblical references and allusions to wedding feasts, in all of which the glory of Jesus is shown. I love to include the Cana wedding when I perform wedding ceremonies, and have had joyful occasion to be thinking about this again.

1 Songs of thankfulness and praise
Jesu, Lord, to Thee we raise.
Manifested by the star
To the sages from afar;
Branch of royal David's stem
In Thy birth at Bethlehem;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in Man made manifest.

2 Manifest at Jordan's stream,
Prophet, Priest, and King supreme;
And at Cana, wedding-guest,
In Thy God-head manifest;
Manifest in power divine,
Changing water in to wine;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in Man made manifest.

3 Manifest in making whole
Palsied limbs and fainting soul;
Manifest in valiant fight,
Quelling all the devil's might;
Manifest in gracious will,
Ever bringing good from ill;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in Man made manifest.

4 Sun and moon shall darkened be.
Stars shall fall, and heavens shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
All will see His glorious sign:
All will then the trumpet hear;
All will see the Judge appear;
Thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in Man made manifest.

5 Grant us grace to see Thee, Lord,
Present in Thy holy Word;
May we imitate Thee now,
And be pure, as pure art Thou;
That we like to Thee may be
At Thy great Epiphany;
And may praise Thee, ever blest,
God in Man made manifest.

Author: Christopher Wordsworth
The Hymnal:  General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church 1892 
TUNE: St. Edmunds 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Baptism of our Lord

The Evangelical Feasts are those dates on the Church Calendar that observe and celebrate events in the life of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. From Palm Sunday on, we can be certain that our dates line up with the actual events, as they are so closely tied to the Jewish Passover festival. At this time of year, we settle for what the western church has agreed to do: celebrate the Nativity/Incarnation in late December, and then observe those Gospel accounts that roll out the "manifestation" (epiphany) of Jesus - first to Gentiles (the magi), then to Israel (as this week, by way of Jesus' baptism). We cannot know when the Father spoke, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," but we surely must not forget that the Father did so speak; and we should heed the words.

I will not be posting weekly through this Church Year, but will continue with the Evangelical Feasts (and, just because it is meaningful to me, Lent).

I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvatin may reach to the end of the earth.
(Isaiah 49:9)

Psalm 80:20-29
I have found David, my servant;
    with my holy oil I have anointed him,
so that my hand shall be established with him;
    my arm also shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall not outwit him;
    the wicked shall not humble him.
I will crush his foes before him
    and strike down those who hate him.
My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him,
    and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
I will set his hand on the sea
    and his right hand on the rivers.
He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
And I will make him the firstborn,
    the highest of the kings of the earth.
My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
    and my covenant will stand firm for him.
I will establish his offspring forever
    and his throne as the days of the heavens.

Isaiah 42:1-9
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
    till he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his law.

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
    I tell you of them.”

Anthem Motet on Isaiah 42

Acts 10:34-38
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Almighty God, whose servant and prophet John the Baptis was a witness to the truth as the forerunner of the salvation wrought in your Son, lead us to bear witness to the same Jesus Christ, who is the eternal light and truth, and lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
Gordon Giles, The Music of Praise, page 57

Hymn On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry

On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
awake and hearken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings.
     Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
     make straight the way for God within,
     prepare we in our hearts a home
     where such a mighty Guest may come.

For thou art our salvation, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward;
without thy grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.
     To heal the sick stretch out thine hand,
     and bid the fallen sinner stand;
     shine forth and let thy light restore
     earth's own true loveliness once more.
All praise, eternal Son, to thee,
whose advent doth thy people free;
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Ghost for evermore.

Words: Charles Coffin, 1736

trans. John Chandler, 1837

Music: Winchester New

Matthew 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Collect for the Baptism of our Lord, The Book of Common Prayer, 1979

Monday, January 6, 2014


Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
(Isaiah 60:3)

from Psalm 72
Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the children of the needy,
    and crush the oppressor!
. . . 
May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
    render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts!
May all kings fall down before him,
    all nations serve him!

For he delivers the needy when he calls,
    the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
    and precious is their blood in his sight.

Long may he live;
    may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
    and blessings invoked for him all the day!
May there be abundance of grain in the land;
    on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
    may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
    like the grass of the field!
May his name endure forever,
    his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
    all nations call him blessed!

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory!

Isaiah 60: 1-9
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
    they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
    and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
    your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
    the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
    the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
    all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
    and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;
    the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,
    and I will beautify my beautiful house.

Who are these that fly like a cloud,
    and like doves to their windows?
For the coastlands shall hope for me,
    the ships of Tarshish first,
to bring your children from afar,
    their silver and gold with them,
for the name of the Lord your God,
    and for the Holy One of Israel,
    because he has made you beautiful.

Hymn: Saw You Never in the Twilight
1. Saw you never, in the twilight, when the sun had left the skies,
Up in heaven the clear stars shining through the gloom,
          like silver eyes?
So of old the wise men, watching, saw a little stranger star,
And they knew the King was given, and they followed it from afar.

2. Heard you never of the story how they crossed the desert wild,
Journeyed on by plain and mountain, till they found the holy Child?
How they opened all their treasure, kneeling to that infant King;
Gave the gold and fragrant incense, gave the myrrh in offering?

3. Know ye not that lowly Baby was the bright and morning Star?
He Who came to light the Gentiles, and the darkened isles afar?
And we, too, may seek His cradle;
          there our hearts' best treasures bring;
Love, and faith, and true devotion for our Savior, God and King.

(Trinity Hymnal, image from hymnary.org)

Ephesians 3: 1-12
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles . . . the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Anthem: The Three Kings 

Matthew 2: 1-12
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Collect for the Epiphany, from The Book of Common Prayer, 1979)

Hymn: As With Gladness Men of Old

1. As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold;
As with joy they hailed its light,
Leading onward, beaming bright;
So, most gracious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.

2. As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger-bed;
There to bend the knee before
Him Whom heaven and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek the mercy-seat.

3. As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we, with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin's alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ! to Thee our heavenly King.

4. Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy Glory hide.

5. In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There for ever may we sing
Alleluias to our King

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Holy Name

Every January 1, a reminder that our Lord was named. The songs in this post are all a part of the the 1990's Penumbra Theater productions of Langston Hughes's "The Black Nativity." (Though the selected recordings are not from those outstanding performances.) In "The Black Nativity" - as we saw it in the Twin Cities in those years - the roles of Mary and Joseph are danced (classical), silent, and a little remote . . . until the Baby Jesus is born. Then, the Holy Family "takes on flesh" and becomes part of the community on stage. I always loved that transformation.

Music is an odd medium, perhaps, in which to celebrate Incarnation. So maybe that is why the "gospel" tinge of today's selections feels so right. The Eternal Lord is given a very earthly name. Oh! what a wonderful Child!

Behold, the dwelling of God is with mankind. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, and be their God.
(Revelation 21:3)

Psalm 8
O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Exodus 34: 1-8
The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. 3 No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” 4 So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. 5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

Carol: I Wonder as I Wander

Philippians 2: 9-13
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Luke 2: 15-21
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Gospel Song: Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child

Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus tobe the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Collect for the Holy Name, January 1, from The Book of Common Prayer (1979)