Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 64:1-9
Devotional Scripture ~ Psalm 147:7.
Happy Christian New Year! This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, and we begin our journey to the manger for the birth of the Christ Child. Our Advent sermon series this year will offer reflections on Lectionary B Advent texts and scenes from CS Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. We look forward to this time of study together.*
Worship through song is an experience and form of praise we find throughout the Bible:
Miriam sang and danced after God's company crossed the waters escaping Pharaoh in the Exodus.
David sang and danced before the Lord; many of the Psalms are attributed to him.
The heavenly host sang across the heavens at our Savior's birth.
At the conclusion of the Passover meal, Jesus sang with his disciples.
The Apostle Paul identifies singing spiritual hymns and songs as a way for the words of Christ to dwell richly in our hearts.
I often find myself analyzing the words in hymns and worship songs. I have a strong belief that those words were and are intentionally chosen, and so I reflect on why. Because - in the why - there is great theology.
One of my favorite worship songs is Here's My Heart Lord by I Am They.**
Ever since hearing this song the first time, the refrain - Here's my heart, Lord; speak what is true - is a beloved prayer I use when all other words escape me.
In this worship song the vocalist sings a list of I am... statements:
I am found, I am Yours I am loved, I'm made pure I have life, I can breathe I am healed, I am free
How is it that the vocalist is - that we are - all these things? The answer is in the next intentional word in the lyric: Cause.
Cause You are strong, You are sure You are life, You endure You are good, always true You are light breaking through
Without that cause all of these I am... / You are... statements remain true. With that cause I am is connected heart, mind, soul, and strength - forever - to the You...and that, my friends, is what God intends.
In 2011 the impact of lyrics in two Charles Wesley hymns greatly deepened in my life. Days before Easter that year my childhood friend, Lauren, completed her course in faith. It was my first Easter serving in pastoral leadership with a congregation...I had no idea of the fount from which I could or would draw strength, inspiration, and authenticity to celebrate.
Thank God we sang Christ the Lord Is Risen Today first. Because everything I needed (and still need) is in the fourth verse:
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia! Following our exalted Head, Alleluia! Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia! Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!***
Forgetting that I was leading the next element of the service (probably not the best, but hey, I was having a moment!), I turned in my hymnal to another of Wesley's hymns, and read these words in the third verse of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:
Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.****
Thank you, Brother Wesley.
In that moment of grief, I had one of the greatest realizations of hope in my life. These two hymns of Wesley were 'bookends'! Their theology connect for us the melody shared between incarnation and resurrection. Resurrection breaks into the world with Christ's incarnation. And Christ's resurrection proves God's incarnation as indisputable.
Only God could do either of those things. And God did.
Friends, what a blessing it is to sing our faith in hymns and praise songs. The richness of the words is a gift...and if we experience a dearth in that richness, reflect on that! See what your heart - your understanding of theology - your confidence in the knowledge and love of God - says to you!
I look forward to worshipping with you in song during this Advent and Christmas Season. See you in worship!
Reflection: Make a list of your favorite hymns and/or worship songs. Write out some of your favorite lyrics in those songs, and reflect about why those songs feed your spirit.
Prayer: "O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”***** Amen.
***"Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," The United Methodist Hymnal 302.
****"Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," The United Methodist Hymnal 240.
*****“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 211.
Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal