Saturday, November 30, 2019

See, the desert shall rejoice

See, the desert shall rejoice, blossoming and blooming,
Brimming with new life against all the darkness looming.
From the wilderness so bleak shall come waters flowing
And the highway of our God, peace and welcome showing.

See how Mary does rejoice, trusting and foretelling
How our Savior will bring forth peace and justice swelling;
Filling up the hungry throng; lifting up the lowly.
This the Savior who she sings; mighty, good, and holy.

See the work Messiah does: seeing, walking, healing,
Hearing, living, good news come, holiness revealing.
Blessed is the one who sees goodness in the Savior
Without taking wrong offense, with no rude behavior.

See how patience is our call, like the farmer planting
Crops that bloom forth from the earth, God all favor granting.
Strengthen now your weary heart; death is not our story,
But rejoicing will return in our Savior’s glory.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after Advent 3A scriptures.
             (“Good King Wenceslas,” “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child”)

Advent 3A contains perhaps the most fertile combination of scriptures of any Sunday of the whole three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary. Acknowledging all of them is a challenge, but all of them have something to teach us. The tune is in Glory to God with the text “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child” but is most famously associated with the popular carol “Good King Wenceslas.”

Friday, November 29, 2019

Prepare your hearts

Prepare your hearts, prepare your minds, the reign of God comes near!
The prophet’s voice cries out to all; let all God’s people hear!
            Let all God’s people hear!

Make straight the pathway of our Lord; prepare a road to be
The highway of the Holy One for all the world to see!
            For all the world to see!

No one will hurt, no one will harm in our Lord’s holy place;
Our Lord will judge with righteousness and show the poor God’s grace,
            And show the poor God’s grace.

So welcome one another all, to give God glory true,
And so prepare the way of God in all you say and do,
            In all you say and do.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after Advent 2A scriptures.
MUSIC: Possible tunes:
            CHRISTMAS, G.F. Handel, arr. Lowell Mason, 1821.
            WINCHESTER OLD, Este’s Psalms, 1592 (without repeated last line)

There are two deliberate projects at work in this set of hymns for Advent A; the use of some fairly well-known Christmas tunes that might not get quite as much play at Christmas as some others (i.e. I'm pretty unlikely to use ADESTE FIDELES as a part of this set), and to write (with the exception of the hymn for 4A) texts that reference all of the given scripture readings (except the psalm) for that given Sunday. The reference may be slight, as here with the brief allusion to the Romans reading in the final stanza), but hopefully they show up at least a little. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

When Joseph learned

When Joseph learned his bride-to-be was soon to have a child,
He had no wish to cause her harm or hold her up to shame.
A righteous man, his mind was set, to sad choice reconciled,
Until into his restless dreams the Lord’s own angel came.

“Oh, son of David, do the good; take Mary as your wife;
The child in her is Spirit-made of God’s own true design.
This son she bears will save us all from sin and give us life.”
The angel’s word did give him strength and his good task define.

Then came to mind these prophet words: “the woman bears a son,
His name shall be Immanuel,” God-with-us for all time.
So Joseph woke and knew his work was only now begun;
To be at Mary’s side when she gave birth to life sublime.

So Joseph did the Lord’s command, and was, both strong and true,
The earthly father of God’s Son; this work became his call.  
Now give we thanks for one who did what God called him to do,
And take his good obedience as model for us all.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after Matthew 1:18-25
MUSIC: Suggested Tunes:
            NOEL (Sullivan), English melody, arr. Arthur Sullivan, 1874 (Sometimes associated with “It came upon the midnight clear”)
            ST. LOUIS, Lewis Henry Redner, 1868 (“O little town of Bethlehem”)
            FOREST GREEN, English folk tune, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906 (alternate tune for “O little town of Bethlehem”)

Got out of order here; this one is for Advent 4A, specifically the annunciation to Joseph in Matthew 1:18-25. The previous entry is for Advent 1A; 2A and 3A are forthcoming. There are multiple tunes noted, but the one set above is the one that was in my head as I wrote the text. It seems only fair; Sullivan (yes, of "Gilbert and" fame) has seen his tune for "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" eclipsed (at least in the US), and while NOEL is used in Glory to God, it's not for any seasonal text. The obvious seasonal tune name cried out for at least the proximity of Advent.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Keep watch

Keep watch, O Christian people! Awake, keep watch, and wait!
Though the Lord may tarry yet, God will surely not be late.
Even though we do not know the hour and do not know the date,
Wake, keep watch, and wait! Wake, keep watch, and wait!

Keep watch, O Christian people! Salvation now is near!
For the night is giving way, and the day is nearly here!
Shun the works of darkness grim and put away your quarreling here;
See salvation near! See salvation near!

Keep watch, O Christian people! Forget what’s come before!
Still the day is coming when war and sword shall be no more.
Nations all shall fear the Lord and sing his praise from shore to shore.
War shall be no more! War shall be no more!

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after Advent 1A scriptures
MUSIC: Tune IN DULCI JUBILO (“Good Christian Friends, Rejoice”).
            German folk melody, 14th cent.

An amalgam of ideas from the scriptures for the first Sunday of Advent, year A (Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44, and even Romans 13:11-14). Also, it makes use of a familiar tune that can be difficult to fit in during the Christmas season. The Advent season for which I am preparing is using a progressive theme of "Watch-Prepare-Rejoice-Behold," which seems to fit with the lectionary well this year, instead of the Hope-Peace-Joy-Love that seems to have become rather common. This is meant to fit in with and help emphasize that first step of the season.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Zacchaeus was a tiny man

Zacchaeus was a tiny man,
            Small both in heart and stature;
He was despised, for to his own
            He was a low tax-catcher.

When Jesus came into his town,
            Zacchaeus grew a-flustered;
He yearned to see this holy one,
            And so his strength he mustered;

He clambered up a tree that stood
            And to his sight gave favor.
And so he saw our Lord so good,
            And felt his heart grow graver.

But Jesus looked into the tree,
            His eyes not slow nor dodging,
And said, “Zacchaeus, come down here,
            For I require your lodging.”

The people grumbled and complained,
            “He’s eating with a sinner!”
But he did vow to right his ways,
            And leave his purse all thinner.

Our Savior came to seek the lost,
            And claim them with elation.
Zacchaeus found his home that day;
            Its name is called salvation.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after Luke 19:1-10
MUSIC: Suggested tune BARBARA ALLEN, English traditional melody.

Another exercise of a sort, taking a known folk tune instead of a hymn tune with which I'm familiar. BARBARA ALLEN actually has been appropriated for a few hymns, though none I know terribly well (I think there's a John Bell text attached to it somewhere?), but for ex-musicologist me it's mostly known for the tragic love story most traditionally attached to it. With the tune coming first in this case (not my usual practice), I found myself, consciously or not, drawn to the idea of making or adapting a text that told a story, as ballad tunes like this one so often do. Conveniently, the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector happens to be the lectionary gospel reading for a week from Sunday. What fun when things work out that if you were inclined to call this "The Ballad of Zacchaeus" I could hardly object.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Oh, when the storms are all too real

Oh, when the storms are all too real,
With winds or waters rising,
Our lives are lost or broken down,
By nature turned despising;
Our souls cry out in hard despair
With confidence sore shaken.
But where is hope when all is lost,
Or can hope yet awaken?

We do not serve a God aloof,
All cold and hard, unfeeling,
Nor are we cut off and adrift
Although our hearts are reeling.
The Holy Spirit swift and sure
Goes forth when creatures suffer,
And forges from God’s steadfast love
A constant shield and buffer.

That Spirit also calls us out
When nature’s might brings trouble
For neighbors near or neighbors far,
To hope amidst the rubble;
To build and fix and raise anew,
God’s care and mercy showing,
So from despair and hopeless
Come life and hope new-growing.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019
MUSIC: Suggested tune HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING, Robert Lowry, 1869

My frequent role as Weather Channel geek and general weather-worrier cropped up again this week after strong tornadoes hit the Dallas area. Of course, in Florida there's always a hurricane to remember, whether it hit the state proper (Irma, Michael) or neighboring island areas (Maria, Dorian). I never want to dismiss the destructive powers of nature, even while seeking a theology of creation more characterized by living within it rather than dominating it, so facing such disasters is mandatory. In the meantime, such disasters may need to be addressed in worship.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

I'm not ashamed, whate'er my trial

I’m not ashamed, whate’er my trial; I know in whom I trust.
I trust our Savior, Jesus Christ, and follow him I must.
I know that he is capable to guard until that day
The life that I entrust to Christ who is my truth and way.

Hold on, dear friends, to what you know, to all you have been taught;
Stand fast in God’s most holy Word, that truth you long have sought.
In faith and love that are Christ’s own be true to this you know,
This treasure you are given as you in God’s own Spirit grow.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after 2 Timothy 1:12-14
MUSIC: Suggested tune RESIGNATION, USA folk melody, Lewis’s Beauties of Harmony, 1828

Yup, another one from the lectionary epistle reading. This one actually marinated for a few days before coming together, but for now keeping on doing the work seems like a discipline I need for now. Still, it works, I think (though I'm quite certain some editing is in its future), and the tune seems particularly suitable for the text.

Monday, September 23, 2019

God, grant us the contentment

God, grant us the contentment
            Of knowing what we need,
Not wanting after riches
            That cause the soul to bleed.
Deliver us from evil
            That comes of loving wealth,
But hold us in your true love,
            Your life and breath and health.

Give us the grace, our dear Lord,
            To seek your gift of love;
To choose that which is faithful
            And peace-like as the dove.
With righteousness and goodness
            And gentleness to give,
O God of all our living,
            Hold us and help us live.

For we who know abundance,
            Let us not live in pride,
But only in your goodness,
            Lord, teach us to abide.
Keep us from vain desiring
            That leads to pain and strife,
But give to us your best gift:
            Life that is truly life.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after 1 Timothy 6:6-19.
MUSIC: Suggested tune SALLEY GARDENS, Irish folk melody.

Hopefully it is clear that these are not strict scripture paraphrases. Plenty of this passage is not reflected in the hymn. Still, I hope that this run of hymns are of some use in accompanying and perhaps interpreting these scriptures in song. And now I'm going to have to preach on all these epistle readings some day to be able to use these hymns in worship. (And yes, SALLEY GARDENS does appear as a hymn tune, at least in Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal, attached to the old William Cowper text "Sometimes a light surprises.") 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Take on the mind of Christ

Take on the mind of Christ our Lord: though God in every way,
He did not cling to heav’nly form, but gave himself away.

Take on the mind of Christ our Lord: he took a servant mind,
Yes, Christ, the Everlasting One took on our human kind.

Take on the mind of Christ our Lord, who did not call it loss
To be obedient to the end of death upon a cross.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after Philippians 2:5-8
MUSIC: Tune DETROIT, Supplement to Kentucky Harmony, 1820.

Here is an adaptation of Philippians 2:5-8, the first half of one of the most noteworthy "Christ hymns" found in the epistles of the New Testament. The intention was to set the whole hymn (2:5-11), but the two halves are so distinct in tone and effect that it seemed best to leave this one as it is. Perhaps the second half will come at another moment, and maybe even to a different tune.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

I am no longer what I was

I am no longer what I was – deceitful tongue and violent mind – 
For my Lord Christ has made me strong through his own mercy, good and kind.

I did not know my futile ways; my ignorance led down paths of wrong.
But Jesus claimed me for his own, and cleared my heart, and changed my song.

The grace of God flowed o’er my soul with faith and love that are Christ’s own,
For Jesus came to save us all, and plant his love where hate had grown.

Now to the Lord, our only God, unseen, immortal God of love,
Give all our honor for all time, and glory here as giv’n above.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after 1 Timothy 1:12-17
MUSIC: Suggested tune O WALY WALY, English folk melody

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

I thank my God

“I thank my God each time that I remember you.
            I thank my God who reigns on high above, 
Because your faith in our Lord Jesus shines in you,
            and how you hold the saints in faithful love.”
Oh, let our love so shine in how we choose to live
            within the body of the Christ, our Lord;
In how we give and care and serve each other too;
            for thus we show our Love for Jesus Christ our Lord.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after Philemon 4-5
MUSIC: Tune LONDONDERRY AIR, Traditional Irish tune (public domain)

Again, more hymn writing for the sake of disciplining myself to do it without waiting around for "inspiration," and I suppose being accountable with it too (otherwise I could just trash this and never let anybody see it). I suppose it was inevitable that someone who marched for four years in the Dublin (GA) High School Fighting Irish Band would eventually turn to LONDONDERRY AIR, a modified version of which was the fight song we played oh, so many times. It does show up as a hymn tune in some hymnals, though, so it's not completely nuts. And hey, Philemon needs some hymns.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The priestly choir came forward

The priestly choir came forward to sing the song of praise,
With harps and lyres and cymbals and trumpet tones to raise;
“Our God is good forever,” the priestly choir did sing,
“His love is always for us!” the sounds of praise did ring.

At this the Lord’s true glory did fill the holy place;
A cloud of holy presence broke forth in every space.
So let our songs of gladness break out across the sky,
That God’s great holy presence might lift our hearts on high.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after 2 Chronicles 5:11-14
MUSIC: Tune LANCASHIRE, Henry Thomas Smart, c. 1845

Another hymn of need not liturgy-based in this case but for a special series I got myself into. There aren't necessarily a huge number of hymns or songs that take this account from 2 Chronicles as a theme. You'd figure that a story like this would be the favorite passage of scripture of any church choir director worth his or her salt, but evidently not.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Live in love for one another

Live in love for one another, in the love of Christ for you.
Show such kindness to the stranger in the things you say and do.

Let not wealth claim your affection, but do good with what you own.
Have no fear for what the world does, for with Christ you’re not alone.

Share the good and offer comfort to the ones you find in need,
For our Christ is glorified so, and our God is served indeed.

For our Jesus is forever, yesterday, today the same,
Now forever let us praise him and give glory to his name.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019; after Hebrews 13:1-8
MUSIC: Tune CHARLESTOWN, The United States Sacred Harmony, 1799

Notes: This one came about in a different way than most of the hymns I've written, as a deliberate "find something in this week's lectionary readings and do the work as discipline" effort. And yet I find I really like it; it grew on me very quickly. Also, I did not actually have this hymn tune in mind when I wrote the hymn, but once I found it (it's always been a tune I've liked even though it doesn't get sung nearly often enough; mind you, that has nothing to do with the tune name) I fell in love with the combination, and completely forgot whatever other tune had been in my head before.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Our God Did Plant a Vineyard

Our God did plant a vineyard, and hedged it all around;
            With care God rooted choice vines in clear and fertile ground,
God raised a strong watchtower, to guard the fruit and see
            These vines bear fruit in season, as God made them to be.

We are the fruit God planted and tended on the vine,
            With care and grace God watered, on which God’s sun did shine;
O Lord, may we you planted grow strong and ripe and true,
            So that in your due season we bear your name anew.

TEXT: Charles Spence Freeman, 2019, after Isaiah 5:1-7
MUSIC: Tune AURELIA, Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864
[Alternate and actually preferred tune suggestion: MERLE'S TUNE, Hal H. Hopson, 1983, (c) Hope Publishing Company (hence why I'm not reproducing it here)]