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Monday, September 08, 2008

musical musings: season of creation edition

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I'm loosely grounding this month's musical musings in the Season of Creation, a recent emphasis for liturgical observation as late summer cycles into fall in the northern hemisphere, winter into spring in the southern. The site explains
What Is the Season of Creation?

For four Sundays in September, prior to St Francis of Assisi Day, we join in celebrating with Christ the wonders of creation. In the liturgy, we follow the lead of the psalm writers and celebrate with creation — with the forests, the rivers and the fields, which praise the Creator in their own way. Bible readings focus especially on the story of Earth, which complements the story of God and the story of humanity in the Scriptures. We commit ourselves to a ministry of healing Earth, with Christ and creation as our partners.
On this page Norman Habel gives us part of the history; here's an excerpt:
The season of Creation begins as an Australian story. I, like many in our Lutheran Church in Australia, grew up in the bush. I climbed every tree within miles. I felt close to creation: the soil, the streams and the sounds of the bush. Celebrating the creation I love has long been one of my dreams.

The Sundays of the first year in the three-year cycle of Creation are called Forest Sunday, Land Sunday, Outback/Wilderness Sunday and River Sunday. Congregations can turn the sanctuary into a vibrant part of creation as they celebrate with creation.
Check out these liturgies, too--this especially interests me as a theologian with particular interests in liturgical and ecological theology. As in the rest of the liturgical calendar, the Season of Creation pericopes place us in year A; here are links to Textweek's resources:

September 7 - 1A:Forest Sunday

September 14 - 2A: Land Sunday

September 21 - 3A: Outback/ Wilderness Sunday

September 28 - 4A: River Sunday

On this second Monday of September, I'm offering a potpourri of mostly vocal and choral music and I'm looking forward to instrumental and orchestral suggestions and from those of you who direct or sing in choirs, a few anthems to add to the list. A lot of this music is familiar, but nonetheless, I'm including some text from the music I've cited.

For our entrance song, most of us know William Monk's tune "Ellacombe" to Isaac Watts' hymn,

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.

I love the gorgeous singing and visuals in this performance of "I Sing the Mighty Power..."

By the Team Strike Force from Mars Hill Church I Sing the Mighty Power of God; and here a great slideshow accompanies the hymn.

In the scriptures, land and the created environment are inalienable gifts to be carefully and faithfully stewarded; land is an aspect of common-wealth; land grows the stuff of sacraments! In a special way during the Season of Creation we recognize and celebrate the natural, physical backdrop, the living, breathing stage of God's self-revelation in history and in Jesus Christ.

The Mennonite Youth Chorus sings Let All things now Living

As we know from scripture and from our own experiences, the desert, wilderness and the outback that lack most civilized urban amenities especially form a fertile backdrop and habitat for identity-formation. A garden well-tended grows into a city and the city becomes a place of multicultural encounters, a place for the fine arts to flourish and for a middle-class to evolve; the city is a crossroads of exchange and often a seat of government. But in the city religion and spirituality tend to become static, codified institutions..."Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness!"

The images strike me as a bit overdone, but the lively singing does real justice to Marty Haugen's Canticle of the Sun...

Praise for the sun, the bringer of day,
he carries the light of the Lord in his rays;
the moon and the stars who light up the way
unto your throne.

Praise for the wind that blows through the trees,
the seas mighty storms, the gentlest breeze;
they blow where they will, they blow where they please
to please the Lord.

Praise for the rain that waters our fields,
and blesses our crops so all the earth yields;
from death unto life her mystery revealed
springs forth in joy.

Praise for the fire who gives us his light,
the warmth of the sun to brighten our night;
he dances with joy, his spirit so bright,
he sings of you.

Praise for the earth who makes life to grow,
the creatures you made to let your life show;
the flowers and trees that help us to know
the heart of love.

Praise for our death that makes our life real,
the knowledge of loss that helps us to feel;
the gift of your self, you presence revealed
to bring us home.


The heavens are telling the glory of God,
and all creation is shouting for joy.
Come dance in the forest, come, play in the field,
and sing, sing to the glory of the Lord.

© 1983 GIA Publications

In a parallel mood, The River is Here by Andy Park and what a lovely solo voice on this a cappella version of The River is Here!

Down the mountain the river flows
And it brings refreshing wherever it goes
Through the valleys and over the fields
The river is rushing and the river is here

The river of God is teeming with life
And all who touch it can be revived
And those who linger on this river's shore
Will come back thirsting for more of the Lord

Up to the mountain we love to go
To find the presence of the Lord
Along the banks of the river we run
We dance with laughter
Giving praise to the Son

Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann insists theologians have concentrated far too much on covenant to the often near-exclusion of The Land. Listen to the cadence of the deuteronomic historian's relentless refrain, "into the land, into the land, into the land!" In the writings of the exilic 2nd Isaiah we discover a persistent theme of redemption and hope and humanity's salvation physically located in the midst of natural creation's redemption--the Reformers' theology of God's descent and infilling of everything created recapture these and other biblical passages and Martin Luther's theology of the ubiquity of the Risen and Ascended Christ is right in line with this!

Hillsongs gives a reflective interpretation of Did You Hear the Mountains Tremble and I especially like this joy-filled, energetic performance: Did You Hear the Mountains Tremble...

Did you feel the mountains tremble?
Did you hear the oceans roar?
When the people rose to sing of
Jesus Christ the risen one

Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring your hope
Songs that bring your peace
Dancers who dance upon injustice

Did you feel the darkness tremble
When all the saints join in one song
And all the streams flow as one river
To wash away our brokenness

And we can see that God you're moving
A time of Jubilee is coming
When young and old will turn to Jesus
Fling wide your heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord

Fitting in with the mood of hope and expectation is Send Your Rain by Kelly Carpenter

Send Your rain oh Lord
Send Your rain to Your people
Send Your rain oh Lord
Send Your rain bring Your kingdom

Soften our hearts and pour out Your Spirit
Fill us anew, let Your rain come

May Your kingdom come
And Your will be done
On the earth, bring Your kingdom

© 1996 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing

I've long loved the vernacular music of the North American continent's prairies and plains; "The Lone, Wild Bird," set to the tune Prospect, from Walker's Southern Harmony (1835), is exquisitely rung by the St. Olaf College Handbells
  1. The lone, wild bird in lofty flight is still with you, nor leaves your sight.
    And I am yours! I rest in you, Great Spirit, come, rest in me, too.

  2. The ends of earth are in your hand, the sea's dark deep and far off land.
    And I am yours! I rest in you, Great Spirit, come, rest in me, too.

  3. Each secret thought is known to you, the path I walk my whole life through;
    my days, my deeds, my hopes, my fears, my deepest joys, my silent tears.
Milk and honey is a visible, tangible sacramental sign of the fullness of God's sovereignty and of distributive justice accomplished on earth. Flowing honey and surging milk begin with rich land and rivers of clean water. Ample milk results from bees pollinating fruits, flowers and other crops so that cattle graze on luxuriant grass, produce healthy calves and as a result fertilize grains and gardens; clean air and smog-free sunshine are a given! Hearty vineyards, healthy fields and sufficient water result in Israel's symbolic olives, grape and figs and for us (I'm thinking very locally) in citrus, tomatoes, avocados, berries, grapes and grains. Dairy and beef, honey and harvest lead to nourishment for the farmers, their families and the community, with overflowing abundance to sell, to barter and trade in order to get whatever essentials you cannot produce on your own. Likely I've left out a lot of probable connections, but my intent is clear: heaven's blessings aplenty on earth!

From Trinity Church on Wall Street, this CD includes Leo Sowerby's setting of one of the alternate canticles for Matins, the Benedicite, with its incessant celebratory refrain "Sing his praise and exalt him for ever" (or a close variant). As Walter Brueggemann essentially says, "of course the trees sing and clap their hands--no more clear-cutting! Of course the seas roar and everything in them rejoices--no more toxic waste and pollution!" Here's an excerpt from the Benedicite, found in the non-canonical Song of the Three Holy Children in Daniel 3:52-88:

Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord you heavens: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord you angels of the Lord: bless the Lord all you his hosts;
bless the Lord you waters above the heavens: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord sun and moon: bless the Lord you stars of heaven;
bless the Lord all rain and dew: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord dews and falling snows: bless the Lord you nights and days;
bless the Lord light and darkness: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord frost and cold: bless the Lord you ice and snow;
bless the Lord lightnings and clouds: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

O let the earth bless the Lord: bless the Lord you mountains and hills;
bless the Lord all that grows in the ground: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord you springs: bless the Lord you seas and rivers;
bless the Lord you whales and all the swim in the waters: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord all birds of the air: bless the Lord you beasts and cattle;
bless the Lord all people on earth: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Paradise by John Prine could not relate better to loving stewardship of creation and the devastating loss that often follows rapacious treatment:"Daddy, won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River, where Paradise lay?"--"I'm sorry, my son, you're too late in asking; Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away."

But Israel became the prototypical people of God not in the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey but in the desert of the trek toward that promised-landed freedom. In the desert's sparse economy, with surprising gifts like water from the rock and manna from the sky, Israel and Yahweh encountered each other into the kind of relationship that later would enable God's people to recognize God's paradoxical self-revelation in Word and Sacraments as they recall and evoke and as by grace we recognize and celebrate God's paradoxical self-revelation sustaining presence in, with and under creation's commonest stuff: the utmost essentials for life produced from the heart of the earth.

Avalon sings "Psalm 151"--Testify to Love; as pleasing as the photographs in the other videos are, I like the clean white sans-serif type against black (I know, a couple of typos), allowing the words and music to speak by themselves.

All the colors of the rainbow
All the voices of the wind
Every dream that reaches out
Reaches out to find where love begins
Every word of every story
Every star in every sky
Every corner of creation lives to testify...

Didn't Paul insist we discern the body, recognizing and acknowledging the Risen Christ's hidden presence in the church and in the world—discerning the body particularly as we participate in the eschatological feast of the Eucharist? The person presiding at Holy Communion holds the entirety and completeness of the redeemed and restored cosmos in her or his hands as the risen, ascended One also is now descended, once again "incarnate," among and within the gathered and transformed Eucharistic community.

Morningside is a primarily Asian-American ministry of the Korean United Methodist Church that's based in New York City; along with all creation Morningside Ministry Praise celebrates with Make a Joyful Noise by David Crowder:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord
All the earth
Make a joyful noise to the Lord
All the earth

The flowers of the field
Are cry'n to be heard
The trees of the forest
Are singing
And all of the mountains
With one voice
Are joining the chorus of this world

And I will not be silent
I will not be quiet anymore

Running through the forest
Dive into the lake
Bare feet on beaches white
Standing in the canyon
Painted hills around
The wind against my skin
Every ocean
Every sea
Every river
Every stream
Every mountain
Every tree
Every blade of grass will sing

Here's an exceedingly rare live performance that features pianist Dave Grusin and Lee Ritenour on guitar: Mountain Dance!

Mountain Dance on CD

As the Amazon reviewer says, the CD Sticks and Stones by brothers Don and Dave Grusin is OP, "out of print" but pre-owned copies are quite readily available. Happily I own the CD and highly recommend "River Song."

To conclude today's worship, a pair of North American classics, as Manfred Mann's Earth Band sings Bob Dylan's Father of Night, Father of Day by Bob Dylan, and I could not leave out the late, truly great Rich Mullins' "Calling Out Your Name!" Among many other options, it's on The Best of Rich Mullins: Platinum Series CD; and on YouTube, Calling Out Your Name

Well the moon moved past Nebraska
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills
And angels danced on Jacob's stairs; Yeah, they danced on Jacob's stairs
There is this silence in the Badlands
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled
By the whisper of a prayer; The whisper of a prayer

And the single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames
I feel thunder in the sky; I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

I can feel the earth tremble
Beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves
And the fury in the pheasant's wings; And there's fury in a pheasant's wings
It tells me the Lord is in His temple
And there is still a faith that can make the mountains move
And a love that can make the heavens ring; And I've seen love make heaven ring

Where the sacred rivers meet
Beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the plains
I feel thunder in the sky; I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name
And I know this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
I feel thunder in the sky; I see the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name

Psalm 19:1-6, Psalm 65:5-13
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  1. What richness is here! I'm currently attending a fairly non-liturgical church where innovation in worship has historically not been very welcome as far as I can tell, not tried much anyway. A new interim minister just started, I wonder if things will change. I think this is a great idea. I personally am not a big fan of the electric guitar in worship, the songs that spoke to me most were the choral version of Ellacombe, The Lone Wild Bird (not forgetting the clarinetist by the way!), and the John Prine song. However I think this could be done with whatever kinds of music the music staff and congregation could come up with. The first version of I Sing the Mighty Power of God, and the video with the John Prine song, really showed me the impact multimedia presentations can have. Thanks!!

  2. we use "did you feel the mountains tremble" on easter, quite effectively.

    Thanks for the diversity of music here--can't wait to go back and spend more time listening...

  3. Wow!
    Sure am glad that Monday is my day off!
    Thank you for providing rich liturgy and resources for personal and corporate worship.

  4. Thank you, thank you this was food for my heart and soul...

  5. Wow, Leah! What a banquet! Thank you. I'll come back later to savor it

  6. I can't wait to dive in! Thanks so much!

  7. Thank you, Leah! This is fantastic. This got my creative juices flowing!


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