This Sunday’s Music: Sunday IV of Lent
We have arrived at the midpoint of our Lenten journey toward the Resurrection! Similar to the third Sunday in Advent (“Gaudete Sunday”), the fourth Sunday in Lent boasts the color of rose — don’t anger your priests by calling it “pink”, all you Mean Girls lovers! — and takes its name from the Introit of the day, drawn from Isaiah 66:10:
Lætare, Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum lætitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis. (“Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her.”)
How are we shaking up things at SFDS so that we may “be glad with [Jerusalem]?” You can also check out our music on our weekly Youtube playlist below (and by visiting our growing Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsDSd2zUrlJlm4W_wA5RqmQ):
Last week, we introduced the new refrain for our Lenten Processional hymn, and just as we last Sunday joyfully sang, so we sing together today:
Renew me. Flow through me.
Lord, I’m ready.
Refuge I shall find within Thy goodness.
Renew me. Flow through me.
Jesus calls me.
Raise me up with Thee again.
Today, we rejoice in that blessed assurance in the Resurrection, toward which we, as an Easter people, are journeying. He will raise us up!
Commonly we associate this text with Communion hymns, especially because of the ubiquity of James E. Moore, Jr.’s hit from 1983, Taste and See. Remember it? We’ll help you out: https://youtu.be/gcn1-9Fg0WA. However, this is very much a Psalm… the thirty-fourth one, as a matter of fact… and a highly versatile one at that. There are various images that King David the Psalmist presented to us when he, according to the preface of the Psalm, “changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away”, but there is one theme that unites everything: the goodness of the Lord. For this reason, “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth … O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:1, 3). Today, we sing the bright gospel rendition of the Psalm by the renowned Rawn Harbor.
WE ARE CLIMBING JACOB’S LADDER
Considered one of the very first African-American spirituals, We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder was also one of the first fruits from this musical heritage to gain popularity among Christians of all races and traditions in the United States. In today’s Second Reading, Paul and Timothy tell us that “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20 KJV). In the story from Genesis 28:10-17, from which this hymn principally draws its inspiration, Jacob has a dream, in which he watches angels ascending and descending on a ladder from the earth up to Heaven and is assured by the Lord that he and his descendents will be free from exile and that their God will always be with them. In the Christian view, this story is usually interpreted as a charge to discipleship as we increase our faith and servitude to God by climbing the ladder of this life to our upward goal. We are “soldiers of the cross” climbing the ladder of faith, leaving behind our fears and all other distractions as we draw closer and closer to our ultimate union with God.
Infinitely applicable is this timeless hymn by John Newton, but it is even more beautiful in light of today’s Gospel. In the story of the Prodigal Son, one who has gone astray is graciously welcomed back into the loving joy of his forgiving father. Upon celebrating the return of his son, the merciful father says, “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32 KJV). In a similar vein, we, who once were blind, now see in the ever-pursuing love of our Father, who gave His only-begotten Son on our behalf. What did we, like the son, do to merit the salvation of God? Nothing. It is His grace that saves us, and through the grace of His salvation, we see and preach the Truth. This week, we will sing this hymn in full, including two oft-forgotten verses by Newton, but none captures better the joy of Laetare Sunday’s central theme than the traditional fourth verse:
Thro' many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
What is the word of the day throughout the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? “Rejoice!” And let us do so, all ye SFDS faithful! The Lord is good, the Lord is kind, the Lord is merciful, and we are only three weeks away from the commemoration of His resurrection. At SFDS this weekend, we will be sent off with that Kenneth W. Louis song we love so much. Yes, we may think of Psalm 118 as particularly “Easter-y”, but today is that joyous midway allusion to the Resurrection. We are going to add in some of that good ol’ SFDS fusion by adding in a verse of that classic hymn with words by the prolific hymn writer Charles Wesley and music by John Darwall, “Rejoice, the Lord Is King.” Every day is “the day which the LORD hath made” (Psalms 118:24a KJV); so, let us “be glad about it!”