Hymns and Lessons for Proper 18 (Cycle A)

The hymns for this week are so beautiful … but the lessons are so hard! How do they tie together? As always, the Prayer of the Day (which ties together the entire worship service) shows us. In it we pray, “O God, from whom all good proceeds, grant to Your humble servants the inspiration to set our minds on the things that are right, and the guidance that we might do them.” (And if you wish to see and hear the YouTube versions of these hymns, just click on the title of today’s blog.)

The hymns remind us of the good that proceeds from God — “good” that we are ALL agreed is good. That is part of the reason we all love these hymns. The lessons remind us of the good that proceeds from God that we are NOT necessarily all agreed is good: how we should act on a Word from God, how we should relate to the government under which we live (on both the local and national level), God’s will for the salvation of even those who disagree with us utterly. Great hymns this week … hard lessons.

The lessons for this week’s worship are very familiar ones! The Old Testament Reading is from Ezekiel 33:7-9 — “If you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, I will require his blood from you.” The Epistle is from Romans 13:1-10 — “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” The Gospel is from Matthew 18:1-20 — “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” These are very familiar lessons, but they remain very difficult, no matter how well we know them!

The Processional Hymn for Today is All Things Bright and Beautiful
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This version has a different final stanza from the one that we will sing on Sunday. The words that we will sing are: God gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.”

The Hymn of the Day is Lord of All Nations, Grant Me Grace This hymn, which is a prayer, is especially poignant considering how difficult things have been in our country following the events at Charlottesville this Summer, and considering all of the missile launches by North Korea. How does this hymn fit with today’s Gospel? In this hymn we pray that God would “break down the wall that would divide thy children” and in the Gospel reading, we are told what we must do when someone in the church “sins against us”. We are told that the first thing we are supposed to do is approach that person and speak with them about it … not talk to all of our friends and relatives and other people who agree with us about how awful that person who has wronged us is, marshal their support, and then go together to confront the other person. What Jesus tells us to do is a very scary thing to do — which is why in today’s Hymn of the Day we pray that God will help us do this.

The Distribution Hymn is one of my very favorite hymns: Hy Heart is Longing to Praise My Savior. The words to this wonderful hymn were written by Princess Eugenie of Sweden, and it is set to a Norwegian folk tune. Like all Scandinavian hymn-tunes it is very gentle and lyrical. If you know anything about the Scandinavians, you will know that they are outwardly very emotionally reserved — they feel things the same as other people, they are just taught from the time they are young to keep any outward emotional expression under very tight control. For example, my (beloved) Swedish grandmother once told me of what happened between her and my grandfather just a few nights before his death. Just before they both went to sleep, he said to her, “You know, Amanda, there was only one thing I ever wanted in my whole life.” My grandmother asked, “Oh, Leonard, did you get it?” He replied, “It was you.” When my grandmother told me this story, I asked, “Oh, Grandma, what did you say?” She looked at me as if I had crawled out from under a damp rock and replied, “What could I say? I kissed him and told him to sleep well.” Very tightly controlled emotionally — but not in their hymns. When they are praising God, they can speak what is deepest in their hearts … their devotion and piety and longing. This particular version is arranged as an anthem, and they only sing verses 1, 2, and 6 — but this is the Jubilate Choir from Augustana College (a bunch of Swedes) and it is gorgeous!

The Recessional Hymn is Let All Things Now Living“Let All Things Now Living”. The attached video is a spectacular version by the Lebanon Youth Choir.

I hope to see you all at worship this week.

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