One week before choir practice I took the opportunity to set the hymn board for Sunday’s service. I started by taking all the numbers I would need out of the pile and I started to worry that I might run out of sevens and fours. At the practice later I commented, “This weeks service will be brought to you by the numbers four and seven.” After we finished joking around about Sesame Street and the shows brought to us by a number and a letter each episode, we went on to practice.
As a member of the team who select the weekly hymns I can assure you that we did not set out to see how few different digits we could use. We had no bias that week against twos, threes, fives, or nines. There are times in the church year, like Advent, Lent, Christmas, and Easter when the majority of the hymns will come from that seasonal section of the book. At these times all the numbers will be within around thirty of each other. If the theme for the week is mission the numbers are likely to be in the 700 s as that is the area of the book for that type of hymn.
Our Presbyterian Church in Canada Book of Praise, like most I expect, is organized with the sung Psalms at the beginning, sections of hymns for the seasons of the church year in order, then a section for God, Jesus, the Spirit, and the Trinity. The rest of the book is organized thematically.
A quick look at the hymn board when you first enter the church should give you a pretty good idea of the theme for the service.
Hymn selection for services may seem random to the people in the pews, and indeed it may be some of the time, but usually a lot of thought and reflection goes into the choices. An integral part of worship, the hymns should be carrying the theme through the service and helping you to perceive and internalize the message.
Check it out the next time you are in a church, whether using a bulletin or the hymn board. Look up a couple of the hymns to see what sections they are in. Are they grouped closely together or spread out?
I realize that many churches probably don’t use hymn boards any more, instead projecting the hymns and service information at the front. Our church uses bulletins we give to each person with the order of service, unison prayers, hymn numbers and announcements. I guess we don’t really need a hymn board, but it is tradition. Back when the Psalms were in our Book of Praise the number of the responsive Psalm would also have been on the board which is why there are five rows and only four hymn numbers.
I’m not really sure why, but lately as I curl up with God I begin my prayers with the Lord’s Prayer. I expect that it is the easiest way to get my mind to stop spinning with all my thoughts from the day. Last night was no exception, so there I lay mentally saying;
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory forever.
Last night when I reached the word forever my mind took a twist. My dad and I had been talking about the ‘ever’ vs. ‘ever and ever’ issue that had been around in our churches for years now. As he would say, “If ever is infinity, why do we need two?” Long ago one of my former ministers made this basic point and at that church we dropped the extra ever. In the congregation I am in now we similarly don’t double our infinity.
In many churches (RC and Orthodox for example) this is a non issue because they don’t use the extended ending to the prayer, stopping after deliver us from evil. This version is from a different transcript of Matthew.
What if in the first ever we refer directly to the acknowledgement of God’s power, and glory as eternal and the other to the other parts of the prayer? What if we ended with over and over instead of ever and ever? The fact of the eternal nature of God is, to most of us praying, a given. Over and over reflect rather than on God’s nature but on our imperfection. I don’t just need God to forgive me today for the things I messed up today but will also need him tomorrow and the next day. While his power is always there and certain it is in my slightly dense nature that I need to hear it over and over.
How many times have I wandered off in the direction of temptation and been pulled back from the brink? How many times have I had far more than I needed and still complained and wanted more? How often have I needed God’s help to forgive others and to recognize the ways in which I have wronged others? How often have I felt discouraged by the seemingly overwhelming power of evil in our world and needed to be reminded that God is stronger?
So, for the next little while as I repeat the Lord’s prayer I will end it this way;
For thine is the kingdom
the power, and the glory
I need to help me, over and over.
I finally updated the Sunday Hymn page with options for April 21!
As I sat in my classroom today every time I looked up I saw a bright display on the back wall of the Egyptian nameplates, or cartouches, that my students had made as an assignment on hieroglyphics. According to our reading, everyday people didn’t have a name sign like this, the cartouches were reserved for Pharaohs. To the left you can see an example of what my name might look like, if I were a pharaoh. Can you imagine people accepting the fact that they only had a written form of identification if we were in charge of a country? I don’t think so!
I asked a group of kids, “What was the first thing you learned to print?” Other than the alphabet most said they learned to print their name. We use the written form of our names for many things. Our first squiggly attempts decorated the corners of our preschool art works, often with them printed neatly below by a teacher or parent. Without our name on the bottom, how would people be able to find our little pinch pot or settle the issue of whose right rain boot we are fighting to get away from our classmate?
Today at church I found the following story in the bulletin. It seems to be all over the internet on inspirational blogs etc. and so maybe me writing about it is overkill, but it really struck me when I read it so bear with me. The story goes…
A group of students were asked to list what they thought were the present “Seven Wonders of the World.” Though there were some disagreements, the following received the most votes:
1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids
2. Taj Mahal
3. Grand Canyon
4. Panama Canal
5. Empire State Building
6. St. Peter’s Basilica
7. China’s Great Wall
While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student had not finished her paper yet. So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list.
The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.”
The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.”
The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the ‘Seven Wonders of the World are:
1. to see
2. to hear
3. to feel
4. to taste
5. to smell
6. to laugh
7. to love and…
The room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. The things we overlook as simple and ordinary and that we take for granted are truly wondrous! A gentle reminder – that the most precious things in life cannot be built by hand or bought by man.
At this time of year we become particularly in tune with those wonders the girl listed. As we step out our doors we breathe in deep breaths of fresh air and smell that unique spring mixture of thawing soil, manure, and things beginning to grow. We are greeted by sights of receding snow, birds in the trees, and the budding of bulbs and grass. More important than seeing them, we hear the birds, the spring peepers, the sounds of children out playing in the yard and speeding by on bikes. We feel the amazing touch of the sun on our faces sometimes with a hint of breeze. We touch, perhaps holding hands with someone for the first time or the first time in a while. We enjoy the taste of fresh maple syrup and look forward to tasting fiddle-heads and other local produce. We are so much more likely to laugh at this time of year as our hearts lighten after the long winter. Most importantly, we love!
May your love reach out to all you meet in the coming days so that they may also recognize the 7 Wonders of God’s World!
– Quoted here from http://kanika-sweetzz.blogspot.ca/2013/03/seven-wonders-of-world-inspirational.html#sthash.WSRyFtA0.dpu
Until the end of last week I was, along with all my other things, involved in taking a seminary course on the book of Matthew. Over the school year to date I have taken two online courses, one an introduction to theology and this one on interpreting the New Testament. The thing that became most clear is that I know less now than I did before!
How can this be, and why bring it up now?
It occurred to me that people reading my blog may at times mistake me for a person who “knows what she’s talking about.” In actual fact, while I do know what I have read, heard, learned, and the nature of my thoughts and reflections, I don’t have any previously untapped source of wisdom. I am not an expert! Hence the warning, Caution! The writer of this blog likely knows less than you do!
Throughout my courses this year, while working on essays on such weighty topics as Universal Salvation and Matthew’s Theology on Women, I spent a lot of time reading, reflecting and looking for the answers. Inevitably what I found would be a series of possible approaches, the realization that the topic was too broad for a three page essay, and most of all more questions. Unlike nice tidy questions like, “where is the Great Pyramid located?” the questions of faith are not to be answered with a correct or incorrect answer. There is no ‘knowing’ only reasoning, reflecting, and believing.
So, as I pick up my ‘pen’ again it is with greater trepidation than before that I’m likely to get things wrong. I can’t help but wonder if by the time I am ready for ordination I will still be able to put pen to paper at all.
Like the proverbial hibernating bear I seem to have gone to my cave in October and am just now beginning to crawl out into the sunshine of the early April days. I am sure I am not alone in this sort of behaviour. I am finding, however, that the longer you spend with your blanket up over your head, the harder it is to leave that spot.
Much has happened in the past 5 months, much of it a continuation of the basic routines of life as a church member, wife, mother, full-time teacher and part-time student. There have been struggles with the ill-health and later death of my father-in-law mixed in with celebrating Christmas and Easter, and the birth of two new great-nephews.
For a lot of that time I didn’t even open my wordpress account at all. Those moments of inspiration for something to write about just weren’t there and on the occasion that one would come along, lack of motivation would put an end to the thought.
So, like that bear I am now taking a moment to stretch my reflection and writing muscles and getting hungry. It is time to go out foraging with my eyes and my mind for something to say and the desire to say it.
My Child Studies class has been working on a project for the local pediatrics ward. They are making fleece comfort blankets, they have challenged themselves to make 46 of them.
You may be wondering why the hospital needs little fleece blankets. The key word is comfort. When a child has to go to the hospital they are met with a barrage of strange items, procedures, and people. As agencies like Project Linus know, a cuddly blanket can bring, “… love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need …” Going into the project, having done it with students in the past, I was aware of the value of the project for children in the hospital. What surprised me this time was the value I saw for students.
As soon as the fleece was in the room some students were picking up the material and holding it. Once we started making the blankets, even the smallest scraps were being kept by one person or another, even students in my other classes were having a great time playing with it. Some made little miniature blankets and pillows, some bracelets and necklaces. One young man in another class cut a piece in the shape of a wide tie and even asked me for a safety-pin so he could keep it on. Who knew a little cuddly fleece could do so much?