Archive for the ‘Music’ Tag

Excellent and Admirable Things   1 comment

Above:  Johannes Brahms

Excellent and Admirable Things

NOVEMBER 10, 2012

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Philippians 4:2-23 (Revised English Bible):

Euodia and Syntyche, I appeal to you both:  agree together in the Lord.  Yes and you too, my loyal comrade, I ask you to help these women, who shared my struggles in the cause of the gospel, with Clement and my other fellow-workers, who are enrolled in the book of life.

I wish you all joy in the Lord always.  Again, I say:  all joy be yours.

Be known to everyone for your consideration of others.

The Lord is near; do not be anxious, but in everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving.  Then the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

And now, my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and attractive, whatever is excellent and admirable–fill your thoughts with these things.

Put into practice the lessons I taught you, the tradition I have passed on, all that you heard me say or saw me do; and the God of peace will be with you.

It is a great joy to me in the Lord that after so long your care for me has now revived.  I now you always cared; it was opportunity you lacked.  Not that I am speaking of want, for I have learned to be self-sufficient whatever my circumstances.  I know what it is to have nothing, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have been thoroughly initiated into fullness and hunger, plenty and poverty.  I am able to face anything through him who gives me strength.  All the same, it was kind of you to share the burden of my troubles.

You Philippians are aware that, when I set out from Macedonia in the early days of my mission, yours was the only church to share with me in the giving and receiving; more than once you contributed to my needs, even at Thessalonica.  Do not think I set my heart on the gift; all I care for is the interest mounting up in your account.  I have been paid in full; I have all I need and more, now that I have received from Epaphroditus what you sent.  It is a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.  And my God will supply all your needs out of the magnificence of his riches in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever!  Amen.

Give my greetings, in the fellowship of Christ Jesus, to each one of God’s people.  My colleagues send their greetings to you, and so do all God’s people here, particularly those in the emperor’s service.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Psalm 112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

8 Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see that desire upon their enemies.

9 They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

10 The wicked will see it and be angry;

they will gnash their teeth and pine away;

the desires of the wicked will perish.

Luke 16:9-15 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

Anyone who can be trusted in small matters can be trusted also in great; and anyone who is dishonest in small matters is dishonest also in great.  If, then, you have not proved trustworthy with the wealth of this world, who will trust you with the wealth that is real?  And if you have proved untrustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you anything of your own?

No slave can serve two masters; for either he will hate the first and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and despise the second.  You cannot serve God and Money.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and scoffed at him.  He said to them,

You are the people who impress others with your righteousness; but God sees through you; for what is considered admirable in human eyes is detestable in the sight of God.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 26:  Saturday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Enjoyment of Music:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/a-prayer-of-thanksgiving-for-the-enjoyment-of-music/

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About ten years ago, in Statesboro, Georgia, I heard a secondhand story about an unnamed homeschooling parent in Bulloch County.  She objected to soccer because, as she said, it was “too worldly.”  This was an extreme case, for many homeschooling parents approve of a variety of sporting activities, including soccer, for their children.  Yet the story does highlight an unduly narrow understanding of what is proper.

I find that the boundary between the sacred and the secular is porous.  Brahms symphonies constitute sacred and ennobling music for me.  On the other hand, much popular music is vacuous and a great deal of religious music (especially Southern Gospel and contemporary Christian) is annoying.  And there is a great chasm between the sophistication of Cole Porter lyrics and those of many current popular songs.

Paul advised the Philippians to fill their thoughts with true, noble, pure, lovable, admirable, attractive, and excellent things.  This covers a wide range of material, from Johannes Brahms to Franz Schubert, from John Coltrane to Charlie Parker, from William Shakespeare to John Milton.   Yet I recall that Charles Finney, an evangelist of the Second Great Awakening, in the early 1800s, expressed disbelief

that a person who has ever known the love of God can relish a secular novel

or make book space for

Byron, Scott, Shakespeare, and a host of triflers and blasphemers of God.

(Finney quoted in Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution:  Jacksonian America, 1815-1846, New York:  Oxford University Press, 1991, page 230)  As one who relishes quoting Shakespeare, I oppose Finney in this regard.

I wrote the rough draft of this post in a composition book while listening to the Symphony #1 by Johannes Brahms.  I type this final draft while listening to classical music on the radio.  Such music is truly noble, excellent and admirable.  I prefer, in fact, to listen to such quality music in lieu of engaging in other activities, such as watching television.  (I live without cable television, something I do not miss.)  My spiritual journey entails entertaining the better angels of my nature.  Brahms fits the bill nicely, as does Shakespeare.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-2/

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“In the Sweet By and By”   4 comments

Above:  The Communion of Saints

(An Image in the Public Domain)

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While growing up in rural United Methodist congregations in southern Georgia, U.S.A., I realized that I did not fit in.  Lacking a proper frame of reference for years, I could not diagnose the issue properly until I became keenly aware of good Episcopal Church liturgy, a la The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and The Hymnal 1982.  I had latent High Church tendencies yet was in a very Low Church setting.

And the music did not help.  Southern Gospel tended to be prominent.  The diction was usually abhorrent, choirs seldom blended, and, in one church, loud and nasal singing was commonplace.  I still have traumatic aural memories.

So I was glad to convert to The Episcopal Church, bow to altars and passing processional crosses, and sing more hymns which sounded good with a proper organ.  From time to time the old hymnody–the one I fled–follows me, even into The Episcopal Church.   If I have advance notice, I can arrange to attend a different service, one without music, perhaps.  My attitude toward certain Low Church Protestant music is reflexively negative.

Much of the problem of Southern Gospel, I am convinced, is the way in which most or many people who sing it sing it.  Often the songs are too fast and inappropriately happy.  Even the sad songs sound happy sometimes.  Consider, for example, “In the Sweet By and By,” which is about the afterlife in Heaven.  Here are the words:

1.  There’s a land that is fairer than day,

And by faith we can see it afar;

For the Father waits over the way,

To prepare us a dwelling-place there.

Chorus:

In the sweet by and by,

We shall meet on that beautiful shore;

In the sweet by and by,

We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

2.  We shall sing on that beautiful shore

The melodious songs of the blest,

And our spirits shall sorrow no more,

Nor a sigh for the blessing of rest.

Repeat the Chorus

3.  To our bountiful Father above,

We will offer our tribute of praise,

For the glorious gift of His love,

And the blessings that hallow our days.

Repeat the Chorus

The lyrics reflect a sense of longing, as if one misses departed friends and loved ones yet anticipates reuniting with them after one’s own death.  Thus the hymn contains both grief and hope.  Yet I have almost always heard this sung as if it is all happiness.

This most recent Memorial Day morning, I heard part of Performance Today on my local public radio station.  The program that day was a concert by Cantus, a men’s choral ensemble.  Their concert included a slow and a cappella version of “In the Sweet By and By.”  It was simultaneously mournful and hopeful.  It was hauntingly beautiful.  The diction was flawless.  And I could hear the sparse harmonies and the interplay among the voice parts.  This was what I wished I had heard while growing up.

I wonder what other hymns and songs I might like if only I could hear them performed properly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/in-the-sweet-by-and-by/

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Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Methodist Liturgy

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