The Apostle Paul had a slogan in his churches, “For freedom Christ has set us free!” Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” I have been inviting the congregation in my Epistle articles to think about the positive difference our church makes in our lives throughout the week. Clearly one difference church is meant to make is to lead us to the freedom to have life and have it abundantly. Jesus does not want anything to hold us back. This Sunday in worship we will think about what this means for our lives as individuals and as a congregation. The scripture readings helping us do that will include Psalm 1, Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Luke 14:25-33. We will celebrate some of the ways in which we are not holding back from a life rich in meaning, love and joy.
We will be singing some of our most beloved hymns: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, Be Thou My Vision, and Let Us Break Bread Together.
The congregation will also sing the Introit one last time before the choir returns next Sunday (the 11th, Welcome Sunday and Sundae Sunday). We will start the service singing these beautiful words from the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter by the poet Christina Rossetti:
What can I give him, Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him—Give my heart.
We will end the service singing a Benediction Response with these deeply moving Holy Week words from When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by the great hymnodist Isaac Watts:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Organist John Atwood will be playing pieces by Dom P. Benoit, Flor Peeters and Heinrich Fleischer, as well as “O Rest in the Lord” from Elijah by Felix Mendelssohn.
I am not sure how familiar In the Bleak Midwinter is to this congregation. The tune was composed by Gustav Holst, who is most famous for his orchestral composition The Planets. Here is a hauntingly beautiful recording of In the Bleak Midwinter from the 2005 Kings College Cambridge Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols: