“View the Present Through the Promise”
TITLE:"View the Present Through the Promise"
AUTHOR: Thomas H. Troeger
TUNE: AR HYD Y NOS (alt.)
COMPOSER: Traditional Welsh melody
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3048
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 38: 9-10, 15-16, 21-22; Psalm 70:4-5; Isaiah 40:3-5; Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 21:25-36; Philippians 4:4-5
TOPIC: Advent, belief/believe, forgiveness, giving, hope justice, living, prepare, Second Coming, time, waiting
Thomas H. Troeger, born in Suffern, New York, in 1945, is the J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz Professor of Christian Communication at Yale University. Prior to coming to Yale, he was the Ralph E. and Norma E. Peck Professor of Preaching and Communications at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, and director of its Doctor of Ministry program in homiletics. Prior to going to Iliff in 1991, he taught homiletics for fourteen years at Colgate Rochester Divinity School. Before that, he served seven years as a church pastor. His degrees include a B.A. from Yale University, B.D. from Colgate Rochester Divinity School, an S.T.D. from Dickinson College, and an honorary D.D. degree from Virginia Theological Seminary. Dr. Troeger was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1970 and in the Episcopal Church in 1999. He is dually aligned with both denominations.
Troeger is a prolific author, having written twenty books in the areas of preaching, worship, poetry, hymnody, and the theology of music. He is also a frequent contributor to journals on these topics. One area of focus of his research and teaching has been the function of the imagination in the life of faith. His books include: The Parable of Ten Preachers (Abingdon); Borrowed Light: Hymn Texts, Prayers, and Poems (Oxford University Press); Ten Strategies for Preaching in a Multimedia Culture (Abingdon); Preaching While the Church Is Under Reconstruction (Abingdon); A Preacher's Commentary on the Common Lectionary New Proclamation (Augsburg Fortress); Above the Moon Earth Rises: Hymn Texts, Anthems and Poems for a New Creation (Oxford University Press). His most recent books include: Sermon Sparks: 122 Ideas to Ignite Your Preaching; Wonder Reborn: Creating Sermons on Hymns, Music and Poetry; and God, You Made All Things for Singing: Hymn Texts, Anthems, and Poems for a New Millennium.
Dr. Troeger is a frequent speaker and lecturer. For three years, he hosted the Season of Worship broadcast for Cokesbury. He has led conferences and lectureships in worship and preaching throughout North America and in Denmark, Holland, Australia, Japan, and Africa. He has served as president of both the North American Academy of Homiletics and the international Societas Homiletica. He is a flutist and a poet, and his work appears in the hymnals of most denominations and in choral settings by many contemporary composers. He is considered to be the dean of American professors of homiletics and currently serves as the national chaplain to the American Guild of Organists.
AR HYD Y NOS, the name of this hymn tune, is Welsh for "the livelong night." Writing in his companion to The Hymnal 1940, hymnologist Leonard Ellinwood dates the tune to 1784 in an excerpt from Edward Jones's Musical Relicks for solo voice, chorus and harp. The popular tune has continued to appear with various texts, sacred and secular, since then. Millions of school children have sung this tune in school with the Welsh lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton, 1825, "Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee, all through the night."
When one imagines music to accompany a text about the Second Coming of Christ in final triumph and victory to reign forever and ever, one might think of rousing, stirring music, with loud trumpets and drums, perhaps on the order of Bill Gaither's "The King Is Coming" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." But the music that accompanies this Second Advent text is quiet, meditative, thoughtful, part lullaby, part nocturne. Organists enjoy playing this tune on soft, quiet stops in a gentle, sustained manner.
The music has four phrases in AABA form with only a few bass notes changing in the A phrases. The contrasting B phrase moves up about a fourth above the A phrases, but never rises above a comfortable mid-range. The mix of parallel and contrasting motion between the movement of the soprano and bass lines results in a strong polarity between those two voices, with the alto and tenor merely filling in the harmonies. Indeed, the tenor voice, with the exception of two D pitches, never sings anything other than F and G pitches in all three A phrases.
Troeger's text suggests that our lens for seeing and our filter for understanding life should be the biblical promise and the great hope of the church that "Christ will come again."
Stanza one says to understand the present, even when it is dark and getting worse, through the promise that Christ will return and we should hold onto that hope. It contains the magnificent challenge, "Lift the world above its grieving through your watching and believing in the hope past hope's conceiving: Christ will come again."
Stanza two suggests that we can understand the present and shape our daily lives through the promise of Christ's return. Such an understanding will result in lives and actions that are loving, giving, just, and forgiving.
Stanza three moves on to say that allowing this promise to shape our present living will move us to achieving a future world and existence that will embody Christ's return.
It is entirely fitting to match this positive, hopeful and promise-filled text with the meditative, thoughtful, and contemplative music of AR HYD Y NOS rather than a more militant and triumphal tune.
- AR HYD Y NOS
- Homiletics Online -- Interview with Thomas Troeger
- Thomas Troeger Biography, Yale University Website
- Young, Carlton. Companion to The United Methodist Hymnal Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993.