The [not so] crowded ways of life

“Where cross the [not so] crowded ways of life…”

“Where cross the crowded ways of life,
Where sound the cries of race and clan,
Above the noise of selfish strife,
We hear your voice, O Son of man.”

“Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life”
by Frank Mason North
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 427

The text for this hymn first appeared as “A Prayer for the Multitudes” in the June 1903 and later was made into the hymn that it is today. New York City served as the backdrop for the writing of this hymn and its text showed the concern for people in poverty, workers rights, and the plight of women and children.

Rev. North was the co-author of the Methodist Social Creed (1908)* which came about as a part of the Social Gospel movement led by Walter Rauschenbusch, whose “A Theology of the Social Gospel” (1917) later codified.

Though this hymn was written over a 100 years ago, it feels as salient and needed as ever.

May we continue to hear the Voice of Christ above the noise of our day.

*historical info and details from C. Michael Hawn who is University Distinguished Professor of Church Music, Perkins School of Theology, SMU—in his article for UMCDiscipleship.org.

church #music #drone #atlanta #covid19 #atl #ngumc #umc #hymns #socialcreed

“Why Stand So Far Away My God”

“Why Stand So Far Away My God” — my homily in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting and devastation in Puerto Rico — with musical selections of “Why Stand So Far Away MY God” (Ruth Duck) and Prayer of St. Francis (Trinity Anglican) with Atticus Hicks. The homily was given on Oct 8th, 2017 at the MidWeek Communion Service (Weds at 5pm) at Oak Grove United Methodist Church (ogumc.org).

Our continued prayers with the people of Las Vegas and Puerto Rico and friends Glen and Bill and their teams serving and working there.

chords & lyrics:
Why Stand So Far Away My God (fws 2180) by Ruth Duck
Prayer of St Francis (G) by Trinity Anglican

 

Jesus Revealed

Despite many people’s professions to know Jesus personally, a surprising number of Christians know surprisingly little about Jesus’ teachings and life found in scripture…

This Fall Semester at Emory Wesley, we’re starting a NEW SERIES: “Jesus Revealed” // Jesus was born to poor, humble, Jewish parents around 2000 years ago in the backwaters the Roman Empire. He was one of many traveling teacher/healers of the ancient near eastern world. He didn’t write down his teachings, never became wealthy or owned tons of property, and didn’t tour the world with speaking engagements. Today, some 2000 years later, billions of people believe he is the son of God and many others debate just who this Jesus really was. Despite many people’s professions to know Jesus personally, a surprising number of Christians know surprisingly little about Jesus’ teachings and life found in scripture.

SO, journey with us as we rediscover Jesus.
Wednesday Night Worship @645pm
http://emorywesley.org/worship

jesus revealed 16x9 image

O the Depth of Love Divine

This is not a hymn that provides answers about how Christ is present and God’s grace is conveyed, but simply marvels that grace is indeed given…

“O the Depth of Love Divine” was written in 1745 by Charles Wesley as a poem/hymn describing how God’s grace is available and given to all people through Holy Communion in the Christian Tradition. This is not a hymn that provides answers about how Christ is present and God’s grace is conveyed, but simply marvels that grace is indeed given. In the United Methodist tradition we practice “open communion”–meaning ALL people are welcome at God’s table and that God’s grace is made available and tangible to all.

Charles and his brother John Wesley were the founders of the renewal movement in the Anglican Church that eventually became the Methodist Church. This is my own setting of the hymn, but you can find Carlton Young‘s (famous arranger of hymns & the hymnal) setting of “O the Depth of Love Divine” in the United Methodist Hymnal #627.

Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy)

Lent is one of those seasons where the phrase “Lord Have Mercy” may get a good bit of usage in worship…

As we move into the season of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar (a season of preparation, reflection, and spiritual growth) it is good for us to look to Jesus’ time spent in the wilderness being tempted (Matthew 4:1-11) and times in our own lives where things have been difficult. The point of Lent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent) for those who observe it is not necessarily to “give something up” for 40 something days, but perhaps to take on a spiritual practice that helps us realize our need for God’s grace. Many people take time to give to the poor, volunteer, pray, and reflect upon their priorities in life.

Liturgically speaking, Lent leads up to Holy Week where Jesus will suffer and die for the sins of all people–and then Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus. BUT, many people seem to get ahead of themselves and go directly to Easter–Lent is a time to literally “sit in the ashes” and is an appropriate time to contemplate the difficulties in our lives and the lives of others. Lent is not a time of introspection and evaluation to the point of “analysis paralysis” or the loss of self worth, but rather it is a time for reflection and spiritual growth.

The phrase “Lord Have Mercy” now, as in ancient times, often expresses all that we can really say in difficult seasons and situations in life. Lent is one of those seasons where the phrase “Lord Have Mercy” may get a good bit of usage in worship. The song “Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy)” comes from an ancient tradition of sung prayer as found in Psalms, Isaiah, and in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, & Luke. The Ancient Greek words “kyrie eleison” mean “Lord have mercy” and were used as a prayer in times when we don’t know what to say–times when we can only say “Lord, have mercy.”

This is my interpretation of the Kyrie and its debut performance was in February 2011 at “The Composes Concert” sponsored by Sacred Artistry and the Office of Religious Life at Emory University.

“Lord have mercy, have mercy on me
help me be the things you want me to be
help me see the things you want me to see
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy on me”

words and music copyright by Joseph McBrayer 2010

All Saints Day: Remembering those who have shaped our lives

Many people have questions about death–about what happens afterward and about what things in our lives NOW will mean LATER. In this story, a group of religious leaders are asking Jesus about what happens in “The Resurrection”–about what it means for people later in light of what is happening now.

Many people have questions about death…about what happens afterward and about what things in our lives NOW will mean LATER. In this story, a group of religious leaders are asking Jesus about what happens in “The Resurrection”–about what it means for people later in light of what is happening now. All Saints Day is a time to remember those who have gone on before us and remember how they have shaped and are shaping our lives still. The scripture will be presented three times–each time will have a set of questions and a time to think, pray, and reflect.

the IntroThe group asks Jesus what becomes of one’s marital status after death and the supposed resurrection. According to Levite laws of the time, if a man were to die leaving a widower, his brother was then to marry the widower. This was practiced not only so the family of the deceased was taken care of and all property remained within the family, but also because they believed that the spirit and memory of the dead was carried on within relatives. Jesus says, as you’ll hear, that death is not the end—that God is a God of the living.


After the video
Today we affirm that the people who have impacted our lives—that they are alive and well in Christ through the resurrection and through our memories. Today we honor their memory through the lighting of candles—praying that they continue to impact our living Christ through remembrance of the impact they have had in our lives. I invite you to pray and reflect upon the memories of those who you consider saints in your life. May we continue to live our lives being shaped by and in their memory.

This video may be used (with permission) to help augment the reading of the Gospel text for All Saints Day (often celebrated the Sunday before or after Nov. 1). It was created by the Emory Wesley Fellowship and shown at our Sunday Night Worship Service on Oct. 31, 2010.

more info at emorywesley.org

“There is a Balm In Gilead” (acoustic version)

This is my own interpretation of the Spiritual “There is a Balm In Giliead.” I spent much time in conversation with a good friend Rev. Michael A. Hunt about how to bring my style and who I am into the singing of a such a song…

This is my own interpretation of the Spiritual “There is a Balm In Gilead.” I spent much time in conversation with a good friend and accomplished singer, Rev. Michael A. Hunt, about how to bring my style of music and a bit of who I am into the singing of a such a song as Balm in Gilead.

It was recorded in preparation for a sermon for Emory Wesley Fellowship (http://emorywesley.org) and Glenn Memorial UMC (http://glennumc.org) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA on 09.18.10 in a chapel at Glenn Church on Emory University’s Campus.

Doxology: Reclaiming a post-offering hymn

This is my arrangement of the classic “doxology” or as it is better known: “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” or “Old 100th”…or ‘the song they play after they take up the offering.’

It is number 95 in the United Methodist Hymnal (& public domain), but the “Old 100th” came from when the ‘hymnal’ used to only be filled with psalms set to music and this tune was from that 1551 arrangement attributed to Louis Bourgeois. The words for this text came from Thomas Ken (father of english hymn writing) and was written by him with the simple title (or instructions) “morning and evening hymn.”

This may sound strange, but I prefer to play it a safe distance away from the offering. When we do use it in worship (hardly ever near the offering, those in worship seem to grasp a different meaning of the tune and lyrics. The meaning of ‘Doxology‘ is actually from New Testament Greek for praise, honor, or glorify. We’ve settled with it being played at the time of the return of the offering to God (ushers bringing the plates back up to the front of the church altar/table) is because it has a good theological reason: we should give praise, honor, and glory to God in returning a portion of all that God has given us back to God’s kingdom and the work of the Lord. However, the a common result when we hear this song now is that we get an ever-so-strong sense that we should be standing, singing, and giving money.

All joking aside, this is a real example of tradition that needs to be RE-taught and RE-contextualized. I think that many people really do like this song (great history and excellent words and even theology) but it gets used in the church context only as ‘the song we sing after the offering.’ This is a short shrift for such a beautiful, powerful, and diverse song–it can be sung quietly as a prayerful evening hymn or loudly as an anthem at the 11 o’clock service.

This version uses a cut capo (simulates DADGAD by holding the strings in an Esus, which allows the guitar player to play ‘rhythm’ and ‘lead/melody’ at the same time).

Note the use of ‘God’ in lieu of ‘Him’ for greater inclusivity while retaining the Trinitarian and doctrinally important (Baptism/Eucharist rites & inter-denominational covenants/agreements) language of Father, Son, & Holy Ghost.

lyrics/chords:
E                                              A2  Bsus  E
Praise God From whom all Blessings Flow
E                                         A        B
Praise God all creatures here below
E             A      B       E
Praise God above ye heavenly host
E                       A             B           E
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
(Cre-a-tor)

A      E  A     E    A     E    A     B   (E)
Amen   Amen   Amen   Amen

(in G: G C D)

Holy, Holy, Holy by Reginald Heber

a favorite for the opening of worship and is widely sung as an Trinitarian ecumenical hymn

This hymn is a favorite for the opening of worship on Sunday mornings for many congregations but is also widely sung as an ecumenical hymn due to its circulation and familiarity in multiple contexts. 

The author intended this hymn’s text to be sung following the saying of the Nicene Creed on Trinity Sunday and draws from the biblical imagery of Revelation 4:8-11 and Isaiah 6. In the early 20th century, this text, with its current hymn tune was recommended to be used in celebrating Communion and is often still used for this purpose. (Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity from 14th century Russia at right).

Heber was an Anglican priest and bishop of Calcutta in India and was a well known hymn writer. This hymn can be found in the United Methodist Hymnal #64 along with other hymns he penned including “Bread of the World” UMH #688.

The imagery and language of this hymn is Trinitarian in its scope and invites those who are singing into a space to worship and praise God. For me, this hymn is one of many examples of hymns whose content and musicality can still translate and be brought into our post-modern context (barring a few exchanges of “wert” for “were”). This is a “classic” hymn in my book and one that can unite people from various traditions, backgrounds, and experiences in worship of our Triune God.

chords for Holy, Holy, Holy

The Summons–John Bell

The Summons is about the calling of all people to follow God’s call to become themselves more fully. To “care for cruel and kind” and to “never be the same.” In this song the call to service is one that is transformational–when we accept Christ’s calling to come and be where God is already, our lives are shaped by the experience. The last line of each verse also echoes the mutual nature of how God works in us and through us and through God we find our living, our moving, and our being.

The lyrics for this song come out of the Iona Community in Scotland where writer and musician John Bell lives and works. The music is from a traditional Scottish tune called “Kelvingrove.” Written in 1987, The Summons can be found in the United Methodist hymnal addition called “The Faith We Sing” number 2130.

the guitar chords:

E    Bsus C#m    A2    Bsus
E    Bsus C#m    A2 Bsus E
F#m    C#m    A2    Bsus
E    Bsus    C#m    A2 Bsus E