“He by himself hath sworn: we on his oath depend;
we shall, on eagle-wings upborne, to heaven ascend:
we shall behold his face, we shall his power adore,
and sing the wonders of his grace for evermore.”
- Thomas Olivers (1725-1799), alt.
The psalm this week states, “I life up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?” The sequence hymn offers a meditation on this and on the reading from the Gospel of John which contains the story of Nicodemus. My faith looks up to thee is a favorite hymn in many Christian denominations, and it pairs classic devotional lyrics with a memorable, singable tune by Lowell Mason (1792-1872), the father of congregational singing in the United States. Consider the third verse of our sequence hymn as it relates to Jesus’ message of being “born of water and Spirit.”
“While life’s dark maze I tread,
and griefs around me spread,
be thou my guide;
bid darkness turn to day;
wipe sorrow’s tears away,
nor let me ever stray from thee aside.”
- Ray Palmer (1808-1887)
The service continues with the singing of the offertory anthem, Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts, by Henry Purcell (1659-1695). This quintessential English anthem is a reflection on the all-knowing power of God, and it implores God to hear our prayers. During communion, we will sing another psalm appointed for this Sunday, Psalm 34, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.”
Finally, we end our service singing How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord. The strong message of this hymn assures us that nothing can break the covenant between us and God. It tells us that we will not be overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, but that, if we trust in God, we will discover that grace is indeed sufficient to see us through. After this hymn, I will play the famous “Little” Fugue in g minor by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). This piece, while not as long as many other fugues, is striking and delightful in its themes and construction – there is nothing little about its contents! Listen as the main theme (the subject) enters and exits throughout the piece.
Don’t forget that our Lenten Music at Noon continues this coming Wednesday, March 15th, with The Archduke Trio, one of Mobile’s premier chamber music ensembles. You won’t want to miss this performance and the delicious lunch to follow.