This Sunday the lectionary readings remind us to persevere in our struggle to make this world more like the realm of God’s mercy, justice and peace. We will hear the beautiful promises of Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep…
We will hear Jesus tell the story of the widow who would not stop knocking on the door of a cold-hearted, unjust judge until he relented. Jesus said, “Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” (Luke 18:1-8)
We will be taking our annual Neighbors in Need offering, joining our small congregation’s contribution to a much greater united force that is knocking on the door of a cold-hearted world persisting in its pursuit of justice. The theme this year is: “This we believe…No child should go to bed hungry.” The Silent Meditation in the bulletin tells us that “Nearly one in five children…16 million…in America live in households that struggle to put food on the table.”
We have a long way to go in this and so many other dreams and callings from the Holy Spirit, including ones we have for our church or our families or our own life. The words and music of this service are meant to inspire us to keep on with our efforts for a better life and a better world. We will sing the hymns God of Grace and God of Glory, Precious Lord, Take My Hand, and Community of Christ, with contemporary words set to the same tune as The God of Abraham Praise.
The choir will sing verses of a moving hymn written about forty-two Hungarian pastors who were sold to be galley slaves in the 1670s because they would not recant their faith. They will sing the New Century Hymnal version, Lift Your Heads, O Martyrs, Weeping. Below is a YouTube video of the Pilgrim Hymnal version. The video provides more details about the deeply moving history of the hymn. The choir will also sing “Here My Prayer, O Lord,” by J. Arcadelt. Our Diverse Traditions Music team will lead the congregational signing of Precious Lord and will perform Jimmy Cliff’s You Can Get It If You Really Want. (You can hear the original recording in a YouTube below.)
Organist John Atwood will play pieces by J. Pachelbel and J. P. Sweelinck.
Here is the video of the Hymn of the Hungarian Galley Slaves. You may need to hit pause in order to have time to read the words on the first few screens.
Next is the original Jimmy Cliff recording of You Can Get It If You Really Want. This is a song right out of the gospel passage, arising from a people as oppressed as the poor of Roman occupied Palestine in Jesus’ day. In this case, it was Jamaica in the 1970s. It is from the soundtrack of the gritty, tragic movie, The Harder They Come, about the struggle to rise up out of that hopeless poverty. The movie and music helped many persist in their pursuit of justice and gain real successes along the way. There are fewer hungry children in the world because of this song.