Confession Based on Luke 12:32-40

This is a confession I wrote based on Luke 12:32-40, which was the Gospel reading for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C.

We have a section of our service called “We Are Renewed in God’s Grace,” which typically consists of a confession, an assurance of pardon, and a hymn of response. One variation is to open with a Scripture reading as “God’s Will for Our Lives.” Here I used Luke 12:32-40 as “God’s Will for Our Lives” and followed with a unison prayer of confession I composed and an assurance of pardon from the passage.


God’s Will for Our Lives: Luke 12:32-40
Unison Prayer of Confession

The watch seems long and too often we are distracted, weary, or fast asleep.
Lord, awaken us from our slumber.
Make us good servants
and good stewards of the gifts you have given us to serve our neighbors.
Draw our hearts to heaven—
to your Kingdom and your will—
so that we can build our treasure with you
and be ready for the hour of your return.

Assurance of Pardon

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Song of Response

“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” (or another appropriate hymn)


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Confession Based on Luke 12:32-40 by David Schweingruber is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Parable of the Lost Sons

The story typically known as the Prodigal Son deserves its reputation as one of the greatest of Jesus’ parables. The parable follows the younger of a man’s two sons as he rejects his father, comes to ruin, and then returns to his father’s warm welcome. It then shifts focus to the older son, who is angry with the welcome given his brother and refuses to join the celebration. The father gets the last word, pleading with the older son to join the party because his brother “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

One of our regular class exercises is discussing possible names for the parables (the only named parables are in Matthew 13). This parable’s traditional name focuses on the younger son’s wastefulness (prodigal means wastefully extravagant) rather than his being lost (like the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin that precede it). I like the “The Lost Sons” since the parable is about two sons who are lost in different ways—just like the lost sinners Jesus welcomed and the Pharisees who complained about this.  The parable could also be named after the father—“The Loving Father” or even “The Prodigal Father” (since he is wastefully extravagant in his love).

Kyle Snodgrass, who calls the parable “The Compassionate Father and His Two Lost Sons,” says: “The parable is a narrative demonstration of the grace with which God reaches out to embrace sinful people. Jesus did not need to introduce the idea that God accepts sinners, but his message of the kingdom emphasized that he was restoring Israel, that end-time forgiveness was being offered now, and that this was the critical time for repentance. The God that Jesus represents and proclaims is precisely the forgiving and merciful God reflected in the parable” (Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, p. 140).


Naomi’s drawing is a triptych showing  the younger son squandering his wealth in wild living (note the slot machine), the younger son coming to his senses, and his father welcoming him home while the older brother looks on in disgust.

More art

I found far more art related to the Prodigal Son than any other parable and organized it by which aspect of the parable it depicts. Artists who painted multiple scenes from the parable include James Jacques Joseph Tissot, whose The Prodigal Son in Modern Life consists of Departure, In Foreign Climes, The Return, and The Fatted Calf, and Steve Prince, whose series (eyekons) consists of The Prodigal Appetite: HallooThe Prodigal Journey: Exit Wounds, and The Prodigal Return: Your Past may be Stained,but your Future’s Untouched.

Sacred Art Meditations has a collection of Prodigal Son art. Images of Prodigal Son art from the Larry & Mary Gerbens Collection can be found online at eyekons and the Calvin College Center Art Gallery. I’ve linked to the images at eyekons because I can’t figure out how to link directly to art on the Calvin College page; however, bigger images can be found in Calvin’s slideshow.

In a Distant Land
Keeping Swine
Coming to His Senses
Approaching Home
The Loving Father
The Fatted Calf
The Other Brother
Multiple Scenes

Our class sang the same three songs for our Lost Sheep/Lost Coin class and our Lost Son class. Two—“Shepherd, Do You Tramp the Hills” (SNT #39) and “It Was God Who Ran to Greet Him” (AJS #37)—refer to all three parables with four stanzas, one for each parable and the fourth to sum things up.

The other is “Far From Home We Run, Rebellious” (AJS #39/SNT #40/LUYH #122)—one of the few parables songs in Lift Up Your Hearts—which is about the Lost Son. The son puts the singers in the position the younger son. Here is the first stanza:

Far from home we run, rebellious,
seeking cities bright with dreams.
casting loose from love that claims us,
craving life that glitters, gleams.

The song covers the parable in five stanzas; the sixth replaces the celebratory feast with communion: “Bread and wine for celebration on the table now are spread…”

There are three other songs in our hymnals based on the three “lost” parables:  “A Shepherd with a Hundred Sheep” (AJS #35), “And Jesus Said” (AJS #36), and “Shepherd, Shepherd” (AJS #38). The other Lost Son song is “How Far Away Is Heaven” (AJS #40).

This is the fifth post in a series about the Parables of Jesus Sunday school class I co-taught at Trinity CRC in Ames. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the SowerThe Parables of the Mustard Seed & the LeavenThe Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price, and The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.

The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin are part of a trilogy of parables in Luke 15 about God seeking the lost. Jesus told them in response to the criticism that he “welcomes sinners and eats with them” (v. 2). In the parables the recovery of the lost sheep and the lost coin are occasions for celebration. Indeed, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (v. 10).

According to Klyne Snodgrass, “What is revealed about the character of God is the value he places on even the least deserving and the care he extends to such people. God is not passive, waiting for people to approach him after they get their lives in order. He is a seeking God who takes initiative to bring people back, regardless of how ‘lost’ they are” (Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, p. 109).

Therefore, “If God is a seeking, caring God, then his grace should characterize our self-perception and our treatment of other people. The awareness that God seeks us brings freedom and confidence to life. That his grace is to determine how we treat others should cause us to be caring and sensitive” (Snodgrass, p. 110).


Naomi’s drawing uses a maze to illustrate the search. The shepherd and the woman (with lantern) stand at the beginning of the maze, which leads to the sheep in one corner and the coin in another.


As usual, Naomi made the drawing during our class. However, she did stick around afterward to make the maze more difficult. Since Naomi takes the class’s feedback into account, sometimes she erases part of her drawing, as these two photos show.


More art

Additional depictions of the Parables of the Lost Sheep and Coin include art by the usual suspects: Dutch illustrator Jan Luyken (Parable of the Lost Sheep & Parable of the Lost Drachma), James Tissot (The Good Shepherd [c. 1890]) & The Lost Drachma [c. 1890]), and John Everett Millais (The Lost Sheep [1864] & The Lost Piece of Silver (1864]).

James B. Janknegt contributes The Good Chicken Farmer (2003) and The Lost Money (2003). 

Additional art on the Parable of the Lost Sheep:

(There is also plenty of additional art on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd [see here for instance], which often gets combined with this parable. I’ve only included a few of these.)

Additional art on the Parable of the Lost Coin:


We chose the same three songs to sing during our Lost Sheep/Lost Coin class and our Lost Son class. One was “Far From Home We Run, Rebellious” (AJS #39/SNT #40/LUYH #122)—one of the few parables songs in Lift Up Your Hearts—which is about the Lost Son. The other two refer to all three parables with four stanzas, one for each parable and the fourth to sum things up.

“Shepherd, Do You Tramp the Hills” (SNT #39) is written as a call and response between the questioner and the shepherd, woman and father. Here is the second stanza:

“Woman, do you scour the house, just to find one coin that’s lost?
Since you have the other nine, is it really worth the cost?”
“But that coin you count so small has for me a special worth.
When it’s found, the sight will fill all my house and heart with mirth!’

“It Was God Who Ran to Greet Him” (AJS #37) spells out the parables’ messages: “It was God who ran to greet him…”/“It was God who swept the kitchen…”/“It was God, who as a shepherd…” Finally, “It is God who runs to meet us, conscious of our every need; then, as we in turn help others, God rejoices in each deed.”

There are three other songs in our hymnals based on the Lost Sheep & Lost Coin (and Lost Son) parables: “A Shepherd with a Hundred Sheep” (AJS #35), “And Jesus Said” (AJS #36), and “Shepherd, Shepherd” (AJS #38). Both parables are mentioned in “Christ Came to Save Us from Ourselves” (AJS #32) and “Where Is the Kingdom” (AJS #1), our regular opening hymn. The Lost Coin also gets a stanza in “Go Worship at Emmanuel’s Feet” (AJS #2).

This is the fourth post in a series about the Parables of Jesus Sunday school class I co-taught at Trinity CRC in Ames. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the SowerThe Parables of the Mustard Seed & the Leaven, and The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price.

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price are another pair of short parables found in Matthew 13. In both stories, the protagonists find something so valuable that they give up everything they have to obtain it.

The parables illustrate the great value of the Kingdom of God, which surpasses all our other possessions. They also suggest the high cost of discipleship and the need to give up anything that would keep us from obtaining it. “That the merchant sold all may be hyperbole, a standard feature of parables, but if so, the hyperbole underscores that the kingdom cannot be fitted into some previously existing system. All other systems have to be given up in order to experience the kingdom.” (Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, p. 252).

According to Klyne Snodgrass, ‎”We also need to realize what time it is. If the kingdom is present, radical response is needed now. If the kingdom is worth all we have, then joy and celebration should accompany our finding and involvement with the kingdom. The problem with most of us is that we would like a little of the kingdom as an add-on to the rest of our lives… [The Parable of the Treasure] urges us to abandon what we thought was the focus of life and focus entirely on what God is doing with the kingdom” (p. 247).

Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price

Naomi’s interpretation of the two parables (as always, drawn during our Sunday school class with input from class members) is straightforward: a man searches for treasure in a field and the hands of a merchant hold a pearl. In the background, a house for sale reminds us that the pearl merchant and the man who found the treasure sold all they had.

Everything for Sale

 More art

These two parables seem to have inspired less art than many others. My favorite Hidden Treasure art found online are a three-part series by James B. Janknegt: Treasurefield #1: Find the Treasure (2003), Treasurefield #2: Sell Everything (2003), and Treasurefield #3: Buy the Field (2003). Janknegt also created The Pearl of Great Price (2003).

Dutch illustrator Jan Luyken (1649-1712) also made engravings of both parables (Parable of the Hidden Treasure and Parable of the Pearl of Great Price). This stained glass window at Scots’ Church in Melbourne also includes both parables.

I found a few other examples of Hidden Treasure art online:


And Jesus Said includes two Hidden Treasure songs, one Pearl of Great Price song, and one song about both parables. Our favorite of these was “What Did You Find” (AJS #26). Here is the first stanza:

What did you find while plowing this morning?
What did you find as you worked in the field?
What did I find? I found a great treasure,
and now I am going to buy the field.

The other song we sang in class was from Singing the New Testament: “The Kingdom of Our God Is Like” (SNT #34), which is set to DOVE OF PEACE and covers five Matthew 13 parables in five stanzas. Here is the Pearl of Great Price stanza:

The kingdom of our God is like
a merchant who to own
the rarest pearl sells everything
to gain that pearl alone,
to gain that pearl alone.

This is the third post in a series about our Parables of Jesus Sunday school class. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the Sower and The Parables of the Mustard Seed & the Leaven.

The Parables of the Mustard Seed & the Leaven

The Parables of the Mustard Seed & the Leaven are two short parables from Matthew 13 about the humble beginnings of the Kingdom of God.

The mustard seed was known in the ancient world for its proverbial small size. The seed Jesus had in mind may have been the black mustard plant, which can grow to 10 feet. The leaven the woman worked into the dough would have made enough bread for 100-150 people.

The parables have been understood as referring to the church, individuals, or Jesus’ life. The commentaries I rely on claim their original focus was on Jesus’ ministry. According to Klyne Snodgrass, the Parable of the Mustard Seed “pictures the presence of the kingdom in Jesus’ own ministry, even if others do not recognize it, and Jesus’ expectation of the certain full revelation of the kingdom to come” (Stories with Intent, p. 222).

The application I take from the parables is that the smallest things we do for the Kingdom can bear unexpected fruit. Snodgrass again: “We should expect and implement ‘mustard seed’ thinking, neither disparaging insignificance nor doubting what God can do and does do with small beginnings.… If people are given over to God’s purposes, small beginnings still come to fruition. God seems to be about the business of leavening—magnifying—what seems insignificant” (Stories with Intent, pp. 227, 235).


Naomi was out of town during this lesson so I have none of her original artwork to share. I did find some other art on these parables, but they seem less popular subjects than many other parables.

Parable of the Mustard Seed art:

Parable of the Leaven art:

David McCoy’s The Kingdom Is (#14) pictures six different parables from Matthew 13.


And Jesus Said (Selah) includes six songs related to the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven. We chose two of them: “O My Garden” (AJS #21) and “The Kingdom of God Grows Silently” (AJS #19).

“O My Garden,” set to CHARLESTOWN, takes the perspective of the gardener marveling at the growth of the mustard seed.

“O my garden” says the gardener,
“how the mustard seed has grown!
so much more than I imagined,
now it crowds all I have sown.”

“The Kingdom of God Grows Silently” (lyrics by Joy Patterson, music by Amanda Husberg) is my favorite parable hymn and one of two—along with “Where Is the Kingdom” (AJS #1)—we sang most weeks in class. The first two stanzas liken the Kingdom to a mustard seed and to rising yeast. The third pictures the people of God watching eagerly for the Kingdom to appear. Here is the first stanza and chorus:

The Kingdom of God grows silently, silently
like a small mustard seed grows in the earth,
sprouting and pushing its way toward day’s clarity
soon a plant tall as a tree comes to birth.

The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of God
has come, and now is, and is coming to be
the Kingdom of God fulfills on the earth
God’s visions of justice and peace.

This is the second post in a series about our Parables of Jesus Sunday school class. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. The previous post was on the Parable of the Sower.

The Parable of the Sower

Jesus proclaimed the Good News with dramatic stories drawn from the stuff of everyday life: planting, baking, tending livestock, fishing, weddings, family conflict, crime. I’m starting a series of posts on our Sunday school class about these stories—the Parables of Jesus.

Building on our Minor Prophets class, we designed the Parables class to include both art and music. Naomi Friend returned as our artist-in-residence and James Slegers became our musical director.

We also moved into a new class room, which we decorated with Naomi’s Minor Prophets art.


I’ll make a separate post about how we organized the class, but what I’m going to do in each parable post is to say a bit about the parable, share Naomi’s drawing, link to other artwork based on the parable, and list the songs we sang.

The Kingdom Parables in Matthew 13 (at the center of the book) are one of the highlights of Jesus’ teaching: seven stories he uses to describe the Kingdom of God. The Parable of the Sower is about hearing the message of the Kingdom, describing four different responses to the message—each represented by the outcome of seed scattered by a farmer—and ending with the admonition “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” In the language of the parable: be good soil.

The parable is one of only two with a title given in the text and one of only three that Jesus explains. Jesus also uses the parable, in response to a question from the disciples, to explain why he teaches in parables. Quoting Isaiah 6, Jesus predicts that his proclamation of the Kingdom will result in hardened hearts, but tells the disciples they are blessed by their hearing.

I’m struck by the generosity of the sower. He scatters the seed widely, not just in places where it seems likely it will take root, but also in places where it seems unlikely to. He displays a patience like that seen in the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, which also features a farmer willing to wait for harvest.


Naomi’s depicts the sower as a contemporary farmer in overalls and a ball cap, but sowing seed by hand. He sows on a path (with birds), stony places (at far left), thorns, and good soil. As always, Naomi made her drawing during during our hour-long class in dialogue with class members.

 More art

During each class, we also looked at other parables artwork. Here are some best examples I found online:

Nine more examples of Sower artwork can be found at Sacred Art Meditations.


Each week in our class we sang songs related to the parable. Many of these are from And Jesus Said: Parables in Song (Sela Publishing), which contains 55 songs based on parables. A second good source is the CRC/Faith Alive hymnal Singing the New Testament, which contains songs based on various New Testament passages.

The two Sower songs we sang were “Where Is the Kingdom” (AJS #1) and “Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil” (SNC #79).

“Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil,” a 2002 hymn by Handt Hanson, can be found in Sing! A New Creation. (The tune is here.) The song is a prayer that our own hearts will be like the good soil of the parable:

Lord, let my heart be good soil,
open to the seed of your Word.
Lord, let my heart be good soil,
where love can grow and peace is understood.

“Where Is the Kingdom” is the opening song in And Jesus Said and contains references to around a dozen parables. It’s set to the tune of  BUNESSAN (“Morning Has Broken”). We used it regularly as an opening song for the class. (And Jesus Said includes five other Parable of the Sower songs so there are plenty to choose from.)

Up next: More Kingdom Parables from Matthew 13—The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast.

Minor Prophets Art: Malachi

Malachi was the final book we looked at in my Minor Prophets class, but I was absent and didn’t get to see Naomi draw this.

The altar in the upper right-hand corner is adjacent to two of the corruptions of worship that Malachi denounced: offering blemished sacrifice (1:6-14)—note the cow with bleeding eye—and subsequently “flood[ing] the Lord’s altar with tears… because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings” (2:13).

The lower left-hand corner (set off by refiner’s fire; 3:2) contains the “scroll of remembrance… written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name” (3:16) and a frolicking well-fed calf (4:2).


This is the ninth (and final) post of Naomi’s art from our Minor Prophets Sunday school class. Previous posts were on JonahAmosHoseaZephaniah and Nahum & ObadiahHabakkuk, Haggai, and Zechariah. Naomi’s professional art is available at Coming next will be Naomi’s parables art.

Psalm 100 & 134 Hymns

Psalm 100,  one of the best known and beloved psalms, is a call to worship addressed to “all the earth” and especially worshipers about to enter the temple courts. It affirms that the LORD is God, that he made us and we belong to him, that he is good, and that his love and faithfulness will endure “through all generations.”

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Although Psalm 100 is always suitable for use as a call to worship, the Revised Common Lectionary pays it little attention. It is assigned to Christ the King Sunday in Year A as a response to the Ezekiel (which shares with it the image of the Lord as Shepherd). (It shows up as an alternative stream reading in Year A and for Thanksgiving Day in Year C.)

Psalm 100 is connected to one of the most famous tunes in Christian hymnody (and the most famous tune in the 1551 Genevan Psalter), OLD HUNDREDTH (AKA GENEVAN 134), which was written by Louis Bourgeois for Psalm 134. Ten years later it was paired with William Kethe’s versification of Psalm 100 in the 1561 Anglo-Genevan Psalter. The Psalms for All Seasons performance notes claims that the tune is “probably the most sung church melody throughout the world” and that Kethe’s hymn is “perhaps the oldest English psalm versification that continues to be sung today.”

“All People on the Earth Do Dwell” (PFAS #100A/LUYH #1/PH87 #100/PH57 #195/PH34 #205/HFW #6), the marriage of Kethe’s hymn with OLD HUNDREDTH, gets special treatment in the CRC’s new hymnals, which provide the lyrics in 12 languages, including Chinese, Swahili, and Indonesian. Lift Up Your Hearts, which include no other Psalm 100 settings, places the hymn first.

Lift Up Your Hearts uses a modern version of the lyrics, which also appeared in the gray Psalter Hymnal. Psalms for All Seasons uses the older version of Kethe’s lyrics with OLD HUNDREDTH. The modern lyrics are used with another tune. Here is stanza 1 of the modern lyrics:

All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Serve him with joy, his praises tell,
come now before him and rejoice!

(The gray Psalter Hymnal sets the modern lyrics to GENEVAN 100, including an alternative harmonization with French lyrics. The red and blue Psalter Hymnals set them to another Bourgeois tune, ALL LANDS. The 1912 Psalter uses OLD HUNDREDTH, which is clearly the best of these tunes)

Many people are familiar with OLD HUNDREDTH for its use as a doxology (with lyrics by Thomas Ken). Lift Up Your Hearts includes that hymn, “Praise, God, from Whom All Blessings Flow” (LUYH #965/PH87 #638/PH57 #493/PH34 #468), which is placed last in LUYH in the same 12 languages. The tune also appears in a communion song, “Be Present at Our Table, Lord” (LUYH #843) and the Psalm 134 setting (see below).

The blue and gray Psalter Hymnals uses OLD HUNDREDTH for the doxology and their versifications of Psalm 134 (see below.) Sing! A New Creation has another hymn set to the tune, “For All the Saints Who Showed Your Love” (SNC #195).

An alternative version of “All People on the Earth Do Dwell” (LUYH #100B) pairs the modern version of Kethe’s lyrics with the traditional gospel tune NEW DOXOLOGY, which sounds like a hybrid of OLD HUNDREDTH and DUKE STREET (“Jesus Shall Reign”). The doxology is added as a fifth stanza. It’s a fun tune to sing.

“Let Every Voice on Earth Resound” (PFAS #100C) matches GENEVAN 100 (also by Bourgeois) with lyrics by Michael Morgan. GENEVAN 100 is a big step down from OLD HUNDREDTH and Morgan makes the odd choice of putting the first stanza in passive voice:

Let every voice on earth resound,
and joyful hearts hold God adored;
in gladness may God’s courts abound
with songs of praise unto the Lord.

OLD HUNDREDTH, NEW DOXOLOGY & GENEVAN 100 are all so they are interchangeable.

Psalms for All Season includes four other Psalm 100 hymn settings.

“With Shouts of Joy Come Praise the Lord” (PFAS #100D) is a Punjabi hymn. The score includes only a melody, but parts are given for finger cymbals and bells/Orff instruments.

“Lán tioh kèng-pài Chú Siōg-tè/Let Us Come to Worship God” (PFAS #100E) is a Taiwanese hymn with a traditional tribal melody. Again PFAS provides just the melody and some percussion parts (drum and bass xylophone). The song has one short stanza:

Let us come to worship God,
let us come to worship God,
bless the holy name;
enter God’s house with thanks and reverence,
for the LORD is good, God’s love endures forever.

“Jubilate Deo omnis terra/Raise a Song of Gladness” (PFAS #100G) is a catchy Taizé song by Jacques Berthier with lyrics in Latin and English. The tune is here. The Latin is from Psalm 100 (“Jubilate Deo omnis terra, servite Domino in laetitia.”). The English translation adds a Christian interpretation (“Raise a shout of gladness, peoples of the earth. Christ has come, bringing peace, joy to every heart.”).

“All the Earth, Proclaim the LORD” (PFAS #100H/PH87 #176) is by Lucien Deiss, who was part of the post-Vatican II worship renewal movement. The refrain (“All the earth proclaim the LORD, sing your praise to God”), based on verse 1, is intended to be sung by a cantor. The five stanzas are based on vv. 2-5. The sixth stanza is a trinitarian doxology. The tune is DEISS 100. This song was in the gray Psalter Hymnal but I don’t recall singing it.

The responsorial setting is “Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord” (PFAS #100F).

Psalm 134

Psalm 134 is the conclusion of the songs of ascents sung during the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In my mind, I picture a group of pilgrims arriving after sunset and rushing to the temple, where they find that the worship of the Lord is ongoing throughout the night. They raise their hands and join in worship with the other servants of the Lord.

Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.

All the CRC hymnals have kept the traditional association between Psalm 134 and OLD HUNDREDTH, but have used different versifications of the lyrics.

The red and blue Psalter Hymnals use a three-stanza versification titled “O Bless Our God with One Accord” (PH57 #281/PH34 #295) by Lambertus Lamberts. [The red Psalter Hymnal also includes the versification from the 1912 Psalter, “Come, All Ye Servants of the Lord” (PH34 #296).]

The gray Psalter Hymnal substituted a new two-stanza versification by Calvin Seerveld, “You Servants of the LORD Our God” (PH87 #134). Seerveld makes explicit the psalm’s suggestion that worship is going on “both day and night”:

You servants of the LORD our God
who work and pray both day and night,
in God‘s own house lift up your hands
and praise the LORD with all your might.

Lift Up Your Hearts uses a two-stanza versification by Arlo Duba, “Come, All You Servants of the Lord” (PFAS #134A/LUYH #924). The arranagement of OLD HUNDREDTH includes a instrumental introduction/interlude/ending the performance notes claims should be played “as a slow rock ballad

Come, all you servants of the lord,
who work and pray by night, by day.
Come, bless the Lord within this place;
with lifted hands your homage pay.

Psalms for All Seasons includes two other Psalm 134 hymns, “Come Bless the Lord” (PFAS #134B), which is uses only vv. 1-2, and “We Will Rest in You” (PFAS #134C), which uses the refrain “Silently, peacefully, we will rest in you.” The verses of “We Will Rest in You” is a chant, which is not something we would use for congregational singing.

This  is part of a series of posts on the psalm hymns in the CRC hymnals related to one of the Sunday school classes I’ve co-taught with Andrew Friend—Psalms for All Seasons and Exploring Our Hymnals—or from my worship planning notes. We have now covered 40 psalms. The list of psalms can be found here.

Psalm 19 Hymns

Psalm 19 is a brilliant composition that connects God’s glory in creation to the perfection of His Law, both calling forth a response of humility from the worshiper.

The first part (vv. 1-6) describe how “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Although the heavenly bodies use no words, “their voice goes out into all the earth.” The second part (vv. 7-11) describes the perfection of the law, using a series of synonyms (“statutes,” “precepts,” commands,” etc.) and images (“making wise the simple,” “giving light to the eyes,” etc.). The final part (vv. 12-14) describes the psalmist’s reaction:

But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth
and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

The last verse is commonly used as a prayer before  preaching.

According to the Word Commentary (vol. 19 by Craigie & Tate), “each of the characteristics of the Torah listed [in the psalm] contains an allusion to the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2-3), and that by means of these allusions the psalmist is expressing the superiority of the Torah to the tree of knowledge.” I wouldn’t have noticed that myself.

Also from the Word Commentary: “Just as the sun dominates the daytime sky, so too does the Torah dominate human life. And as the sun can be both welcome, in giving warmth, and terrifying in its unrelenting heat, so too the Torah can be both life-imparting, but also scorching, testing, and purifying.”

Our Exploring Our Hymnals class took up Psalm 19 on Sept. 21. The Revised Common Lectionary assigns the psalm on eight occasions (putting it in among the five most used psalms), including the Easter vigil for all three years. On Oct. 4 (Oct. 2-8, Year A), it’s assigned as a response to the Ten Commandments.

“The Heavens Declare Your Glory” (PFAS #19D/LUYH #3/PH87 #429/PH57 #31/PH34 #31) is one of just 19 Psalm settings to appear in all four of the CRC’s main hymnals. (I believe it is the only one of these  that isn’t also in the 1912 Psalter.) Lyrics are by 19th Century British minister Thomas Birks. The version in the first two Psalter Hymnals is “The Heavens Declare Thy Glory”; the lyrics were updated for the gray Psalter Hymnal. All versions are set to FAITHFUL, “an adaptation of a tune from Johann S. Bach’s well-known aria ‘Mein gläubiges Herze’ (‘My heart ever faithful’), found in his Cantata 68” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook).

The first two stanzas cover the heavens portion of the psalm (vv. 1-6). (The first stanza can be heard here.) The third and final stanza is a loose versification of v. 14:

All heaven on high rejoices
to do its Maker’s will;
the stars with solemn voices
resound your praises still.
So let my whole behavior,
each thought, each deed I do,
be, Lord, my strength, my Savior,
a ceaseless song to you.

Since the section on the law is skipped, this doesn’t make a good response to the Ten Commandments.

The other Psalm 19 setting in Lift Up Your Hearts is “God’s Glory Fills the Heavens” (PFAS #19B/LUYH #719/SNC #88), with modern lyrics by Carl Daw set to Franz Haydn’s CREATION. We were familiar with it from Sing! A New Creation. The three stanzas are about God’s glory filling the heavens, God’s perfect law reviving the soul, and God’s servant praying to be faithful. (A sample of the first stanza is here.)

God’s glory fills the heavens with hymns;
the domed sky bears the Maker’s mark.
New praises sound from day to day
and echo through the knowing dark.
Without a word their songs roll on;
into all lands their voices run.
And with a champion’s strength and grace
from farthest heaven comes forth the sun.

This is my favorite of the Psalm 19 hymns and the one we’re using Sunday. I’ve paired it with a Ten Commandments litany (LUYH #722) in the “We Are Renewed in God’s Grace” section of our liturgy.

Psalms for All Seasons includes three additional Psalm 19 settings. “The Stars Declare His Glory” (PFAS #19A) follows pattern of the heavens declaring God’s glory (stanzas 1-2), the glory of God’s law (stanza 3), and a response from the psalmist (stanza 4). Lyrics are by Timothy Dudley-Smith; the tune is David Haas’ DEERFIELD. (A sample of stanza 1 is here.)

The stars declare his glory;
the vault of heaven springs
mute witness of the Master’s hand
in all created things,
and through the silences of space
their soundless music sings.

“Silent Voices” (PFAS #19F) follows a similar pattern. Stanza 1 describes the “silent voices” of the sun and stars. Stanza 2 has “human voices” telling again “what they were told… Laws, decrees, precepts, commandments.” Stanza 3 asks that our “daily lives” will reflect this same glory. (A sample of stanza 1 is here.)

Silent voices, unheard voices,
day to day and night to night.
Sun in blue sky, stars in black sky:
singing, speaking, telling light.
Everything that God has made
tells his glory, tells his glory.

“May the Words of My Mouth” (PFAS #19E) uses v. 16 as a refrain. The five stanzas versify vv. 7-15. (The refrain is here.)

The responsorial setting is “Through the Witness of Creation” (PFAS #19C). The alternate setting is “Lord, You Have the Words” (PFAS #19C-alt).

The Psalter Hymnals include another four Psalm 18 songs.

“The Spacious Heavens Tell” (PH87 #19) was versified for the gray Psalter Hymnal by Helen Otte and set to GENEVAN 19.

The three additional settings in the red and blue Psalter Hymnals are: “The Spacious Heavens Declare” (PH57 #28/PH34 #29); “Jehovah’s Perfect Law” (PH57 #29/PH34 #30); and “The Spacious Heavens Laud” (PH57 #30/PH34 #32). The first two are from the 1912 Psalter.

This  is part of a series of posts on the psalm hymns in the CRC hymnals related to one of the Sunday school classes I’ve co-taught with Andrew Friend—Psalms for All Seasons and Exploring Our Hymnals—or from my worship planning notes. We have now covered 38 psalms. The list of psalms can be found here.

Hymns about Fall and the Human Condition

This past Sunday our class took up Lift Up Your Heart’s six hymns on Fall and the Human Condition, the shortest section in the hymnal. We weren’t familiar with most of them, but we were impressed by their compositional and theological sophistication. These are not hymns that allow verse skipping.

Since the first half of the hymnal is organized around the story of creation-fall-redemption, it needed some hymns about the fall. (Fall and the Human Condition is sandwiched between Creation and Providence and God’s Covenant Faithfulness in a larger section titled Old Testament Life and Witness that opens the hymnal.)

The section consists of three hymns that refer to the Fall and three imprecatory psalm settings (imprecatory psalms apparently saying something important about the human condition.)

Hymns about the Fall

“God Marked a Line and Told the Sea” (LUYH #28) is a hymn about lines and limits with definitely theological lyrics by Thomas Troeger. The first stanza is about the limit God put on the sea in the creation story. The second stanza is about the limit on eating the fruit in the garden. The third stanza informs us that:

The line, the limit, and the law
are patterns meant to help us draw
a bound between what life requires
and all the things our heart desires.

The fourth stanza describes our exceeding the limits, reaching “to take what is not ours.” The fifth is the conclusion:

We are not free when we’re confined
to every wish that sweeps the mind,
but free when freely we accept
the sacred bounds that must be kept.

Here is Bert Polman’s explanation of the hymn from “Thomas Troeger based this text on Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17 for the First Sunday in Lent, Year A, when the assigned Old Testment reading is from Genesis 2 and 3 in the Revised Common Lectionary. Stanza 4 also references Job 38:8-11. Many of his hymn texts were written in direct response to scripture and for devotional use as well as singing in public worship. His texts often follow a three-step pattern of 1) Memory: to recall the passage; 2) Understanding: to explore the meaning, and 3) Will: to commit to live God’s will in accordance with both the memory and the understanding.”

The tune is DEO GRACIAS, which is also used in LUYH for “O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High” (LUYH #111/PH87 #364) and “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty” (LUYH #149/PH87 #382).

We concluded that “God Marked a Line and Told the Sea” is a candidate for congregational singing at Trinity, possibly with confession or as a response to appropriate sermons.

“How Sweet Was the Garden, Fertile and Fair” (LUYH #29) tells the story of the Fall: the garden was good (stanza 1); we ate the fruit (stanza 2); but God hasn’t given up on us (stanza 3). Here is the third stanza:

From dark, bitter fruit came forth a bright seed,
for God did not turn from us in our need;
the love that first formed us embraces us still
and woos us from wandering to follow God’s will.

The lyrics are by Carl Daw, who has ten songs in LUYH, including “Faith Begins by Letting Go” (LUYH #852/SNC #172) and “God of the Prophets” (LUYH #853/PH87 #521). The tune is LONG ISLAND SOUND by Rusty Edwards. Here is a sample.

Although I didn’t recognize it, our occasional choir apparently sang “How Sweet Was the Garden, Fertile and Fair” during last year’s Christmas Lessons & Carols service as a response to the Fall reading. It probably would work better with a choir or soloist than as a congregational hymn for us.

“What Adam’s Obedience Cost” (LUYH #34) tells the whole story of fall and redemption: Adam’s disobedience led to Eden lost (stanza 1); despite the Flood and “ark of mercy,” we “rebuilt… an unrepentant world” (stanza 2); through Jesus, “Eden is restored” (stanza 3) and “the kingdom is the Lord’s” (stanza 4); and we look ahead to New Jerusalem (stanza 5). The lyrics are by Fred Pratt Green. Here is a sample.

This hymn could be used as a Christmas song because the focus on Jesus is as “a little child” inspiring “joyful carols everywhere.” It would work at the end of a Lesson & Carols service.

Four Imprecatory(-ish) Psalms

Imprecatory psalms are those that pray for judgment or misfortune against enemies. Most lists of imprectory psalms don’t seem to include 52, 75 or 14/53, but they all celebrate God’s judgment and are treated by Lift Up Your Hearts and Psalms for All Seasons with special care for these elements. (LUYH specifically refers to 52 & 75 as “psalms of imprecation).

Three hymns in Lift Up Your Heart’s Fall and the Human Condition section are based on these psalms. For our class, we sang these three songs and additional songs for these psalms in Psalms for All Seasons. (We didn’t sing any of the psalm settings from the Psalter Hymnals, but I include those here.)

“God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree” (LUYH #30/PFAS #52A) is a Psalm 52 setting by Doug Gray known in Psalms for All Seasons as “You Cunning Liar, Why Publicize.” The first seven verses of the psalm (stanzas 1-2) denounce the psalmist’s enemy and celebrate God’s coming judgment. In the final two verses (stanza 3), the psalmist declares “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.” LUYH places the “God, let me like a spreading tree” stanza at the beginning and the end of the hymn, sandwiching (and de-emphasizing) the imprecatory part of the psalm. Here is that stanza:

God, let me like a spreading tree,
grow as I trust in your sure love.
Where loyal servants offer praise
within your house, I’ll add my voice
to glorify your holy name.

The tune is BACA.

“O God, Your Deeds Are Unsurpassed” (LUYH #32/PFAS #75A) is based on Psalm 75, which is about God as Judge. The lyrics, by Michael Morgan, place us in the position of the guilty (which the psalm doesn’t do) and asks God to “remove our pride” and “help us to know humility.” A sample is here.

According the Psalms for All Seasons performances notes: “It is dangerous to sing a psalm calling for God to judge the powerful or to pour a draught of bitter wine down the throats of the proud when the singers themselves may in fact be the powerful and the proud. Rather than representing the psalm as a call for judgment on others, this versification imagines that we may be the ones in danger of being judged as insolent. The psalm could first be read, after which the worship leader might ask, ‘Is it possible that some may be able to pray this psalm against us? Have we lifted ourselves up?’ After a moment of silence for contemplation, the congregation can sing this song with humility and contrition.”

“O God, Your Deeds Are Unsurpassed” is paired with  “God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree” since they both use BACA and they are thematically connected to “Prayers of the Oppressed and Oppressor” (LUYH #31), which “may be prayed with the readings or singing of Psalm 52 or Psalm 75 or other psalms of imprecation.” One of the two prayers “assumes the voice of the psalmist in praying for judgment against those who hurt and oppress.” The other “assumes the voice of a person who may be the oppressor, the one the psalmist is praying against.”

“All Have Sinned” (LUYH #33/PFAS #53A) by Bev Herrema has three stanzas based on Psalms 14 & 53 (which are nearly identical) and a refrain from Romans 3 that shifts the theme from condemnation to redemption:

All have sinned, all have turned aside,
and there’s no one righteous.
But redemption will one day come
from Zion, so rejoice!

Here are samples of the first and second stanzas. The hymn is called “Hear the Fool” in Psalms for All Seasons for the beginning of the first stanza (“Hear the fool saying loud and long, there’s no God, we’re all alone”). LUYH’s name change shifts emphasis to the refrain. This song is suitable for congregation singing, perhaps after the confession/pardon of assurance.

Psalms 52, 75 or 14/53 in PFAS & the Psalter Hymnals

“You Cunning Liar, Why Publicize” is the only Psalm 52 hymn setting in Psalms for All Seasons. The responsorial setting is “But I Am Like a Green Olive Tree” (PFAS #52B). (Psalm 52’s only appearance in the Revised Common Lectionary is during Year C as a response to Amos 8, about the basket of ripe fruit.)

Psalms for All Seasons makes an odd choice with its second hymn setting of Psalm 75. “Canticle: My Soul Cries Out” (PFAS #75B/LUYH #69) is a song based on the Magnificat. The song appears in Lift Up Your Hearts as “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” and is set to STAR OF COUNTY DOWN. (A sample is here.) It’s a great song, which we sang this past advent, but it isn’t Psalm 75. PFAS actually includes a canticle section that includes four settings of the Magnifcat; another is included as part of “A Service of Evening Prayer.” I don’t understand this choice.

“Hear the Fool” is the only song in the Psalm 53 section of  Psalms for All Seasons. The Psalm 14 section includes “Oh, That Your Salvation and Your Rescue” (PFAS #14A), which is in 5/8 time, making it unsuitable for congregational singing.

The responsorial setting is “Prone to Wander, Lord, I Feel It” (PFAS #14B), a line from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (LUYH #521/PH87 #486/PH57 #314/PH34 #330/HFW #104) set to BEACH SPRING. (Psalm 14 is used twice in the lectionary, including as a response to the story of David and Bathsheba.) PFAS also includes “A Prayer of Confession” (PFAS #14C).

All the settings for these four psalms in the gray Psalter Hymnal are original versifications by Marie Post (14/53) or Helen Otte (52/75): “The Foolish in their Hearts Deny” (PH87 #14) set to MAPLE AVENUE, “Mighty Mortal, Boasting Evil” (PH87 #52) set MADILL, “The Foolish in Their Hearts Exclaim” (PH87 #53) set to BRISTOL, and “We Give Our Thanks to You, O God” (PH87 #75) set to WEYMOUTH.

The earlier Psalter Hymnals include five settings of the four psalms, four of which (all those in the 1934 Psalter Hymnal) are from the 1912 Psalter. The Psalm 14 settings are “The God Who Sits Enthroned on High” (PH34 #20) and “How Long Wilt Thou Forget Me” (PH57 #18). The Psalm 52 setting is “O Mighty Man, Why Wilt Thou Boast” (PH57 #97/PH34 #104). The Psalm 53 setting is “Fools in Their Heart Have Said” (PH57 #98/PH34 #105). The Psalm 75 setting is “To Thee, O God, We Render Thanks” (PH57 #143/PH34 #151).