Lent 2018 Worship Planning Series

Fifth Sunday in Lent 2018, Year B

Above all, this season is intended to move us from uncertainty and a confused way of living toward a living hope that orders our steps in Christ’s ways. The hope in us has become real, palpable, and we confess that today. And we do so precisely in the face of the circumstances in which we find ourselves that may cause us to lose hope. That is the core dynamic of today’s service: Hope that can move us through and beyond despair.


Lord of All Hopefulness (TFWS 2197)

If you have never prayed the daily office, singing this hymn at varying points during the day is a good start. Each stanza relates to a different time of day: waking, labors, homing, and sleeping. Singing the stanza that relates to your work at a particular time can help center your prayer on the activity of the moment. Within this service, allow each stanza to be a prayer for those encountering times of parting and possible division. Singing of bliss, strength, love, and peace can help us focus on the things we and others need as we encounter difficult times. If someone in your congregation plays a tin whistle, this is an opportunity to allow that person to add to the Irish character of the tune SLANE (which is commonly sung with “Be Thou My Vision”). Accompany the whistle with a guitar, piano, or organ. The printed key is Eb, but you might need to lower to D, depending on the key of the tin whistle. An alternate organ or piano harmonization can also be found here and an organ/piano duet can be found here. For a seamless transition to and from “Hope of the World,” consider singing this in 4/4 by changing the first two notes of each measure to dotted quarter notes. Read History of Hymns: "Lord of All Hopefulness" »

Hope of the World (UMH 178)

A prominent figure in the history of American Methodism, Georgia Harkness helped create paths in the church for which we benefit today, including the paths toward the ordination of women. Harkness was also a gifted hymn writer, as we see with “Hope of the World.” Christ is described in this hymn as having “great compassion”––willing to walk along the road of loneliness and temptation while also being a victor over death. Every phrase in this hymn except the first enters after a rest on the primary beat, and this allows the first phrase to stand alone as the congregation boldly sings and proclaims Christ as the “Hope of the world.” Accompany with organ or piano, and make sure to maintain a tempo around quarter note = 104 to prevent dragging. Also, for song leaders, support the half notes at the end of each phrase through to the downbeat to prevent the congregation from cutting the note off too soon and entering on the rest that begins each next phrase. Read History of Hymns: "Hope of the World" »

Song of Hope (Heaven Come Down) [CCLI #5111477]

This song possesses a great deal of energy in its rhythm and melody, which adds to the excitement of its singing as we issue the imperative for God and heaven to “come down.” This is quite remarkable, because a new heaven and a new earth are not usually the subject of many modern worship songs. It could be argued that the heaven mentioned here is actually the reign of God (kingdom of God), but the melding of heaven and earth is a great image to put before the people in song. The original key is far too high for congregations to sing, so the key of G is recommended. Accompany with a full band, acoustic guitar, or even rhythm section.

The Hope of All Hearts (CCLI #5604829)

The theme of this song is that God’s love never fails. In this recognition, there is hope and promise for all people. This song has a few challenges, and how you sort them out will depend on your context and the singing ability of your congregation. First of all, the key will need to be lowered to A or Bb. Even with this shift, the tessitura (average range) of the pre-chorus and chorus are in the higher part of the range, which can be taxing upon the voice without contour to bring the melody back into a lower range. This might make this song a good candidate for a band-led or solo piece when liturgically appropriate. Also, I would advocate for omitting the bridge, which just adds to the complication and is a little bit theologically incoherent. The verses and chorus are solid, however, and it would be a great choice to lift up the hope found in God.

When Our Confidence Is Shaken (UMH 505)

This hymn from Fred Pratt Green intends to offer comfort and strength to those who find themselves doubting their faith when faced with realities that challenge long-held beliefs. If the tune GRAFTON is unknown in your congregation, other recommended tunes are PICARDY or CWM RHONDDA. Be sure to consider the dynamic of worship at this point in the liturgy before selecting a tune because it can have a bearing on the worshiping atmosphere. Accompany with piano or organ. Read History of Hymns: "When Our Confidence is Shaken" »

My Hope Is You (CCLI #2373672)

This upbeat song of hope was made known by the band Third Day in the 1990s. The song is simple and easily singable in the appropriate range for congregational singing. The key of A is recommended. Set in a simple AB form (verse/chorus), it would be possible to reprise the chorus after the prayer of confession (just before the Communion rite) in this week’s order of worship. Accompany with guitar or full band.

Through It All (UMH 507)

This short chorus from Andraé Crouch is the beginning of a set in which the songs can flow easily one from another. It is recommended to sing this chorus only once as listed in this set before transitioning to the next song. Keep it simple and accompany with a variety of instruments. Piano and organ work, but it might be possible to think outside the box on this one because all of these three songs represent quite a contrast of styles.

Be Thou My Vision (UMH 451)

This song has had increasing notoriety in churches and concert halls as more interest as spiked in Irish music in past decades. The text at the end of the previous song, “I’ve learned to depend upon God’s word,” moves forward into this prayer for God to be present as the living Word. Accompany this hymn with organ, piano, light string ensemble, and even a tin whistle or flute if available. Read History of Hymns: "Be Thou My Vision" »

Mighty to Save (W&S 3038)

Because of the power of atmospherics in worship, falling into a pit of despair and not coming out is always a risk. Knowing this, it is important to remind the congregation that God knows our despair and works in the midst of it. We all are guilty of “fears and failures,” and the knowledge that Jesus is Lord can redeem even the most hopeless situations. This song is most powerful when accompanied by a full band, but a solo piano or smaller ensemble also works well.

Our CCLI Top 100 vetting team offered a critique of this song for use in conversations among worship planning teams, with the primary concerns being that the actions of the Resurrection are a little confused here. Upon consulting Paul’s letters, we find that God the Father raised Christ the Son from the dead, and this song paints Jesus as the one who “conquered the grave.” This may be a small point, but it was offered as a concern because of the way in which songs affect the theological vocabulary of the church. Receiving a high score, it was still recommended for use in worship, and the yellow rating was given to encourage conversation about it in the local church.

All Things Come of Thee (UMH 588)

This brief, chant-like hymn and tune recognizes the fact that God is the source of creation, and therefore, all things belong to God. We offer back to God the good gifts that have been provided for us in an act of thanksgiving. When leading this chant, either an organist or song leader must be able to play and cue in a way that helps the congregation know when to change notes. However, don’t let the cues be rigid! They need to be inviting. Also, the tune must move forward enough to support the breath for only two phrases. Do not linger on long notes, but instead allow the leader or choir to move the text forward.

When God Restored Our Common Life (TFWS 2182)

Ruth Duck has created a paraphrase of Psalm 126 in the first two stanzas of this powerful hymn. Stanza three represents our prayer for the oppressed and those suffering from injustice. The RESIGNATION tune is a perfect pairing for the text because it contains echoes of both despair and joy. The words themselves are liberating, particularly the last phrase. Since the tune is rather slow and drawn out, it is recommended to sing at a tempo around quarter note = 96. If sung slower, the congregation will have a hard time properly maintaining the breath for the long phrases.

Listen to Our Hearts (CCLI #903151)

Steven Curtis Chapman made this song known among contemporary worship circles in the early 1990s, and the words are poignant as a statement of thanksgiving to God. The haunting melody and choice of minor harmonies prevalent throughout the song present the feeling that this offering of thanks has come at a price, or possibly at the end of a long, arduous journey. This makes it very fitting as a closing piece for the Rehab theme of this Lenten season. If choosing to sing this during Communion, it is recommended to consider using a lighter ensemble to accompany, even a solo guitar or piano. The original key of E found on the CCLI site would be appropriate for congregational singing.

Come Out the Wilderness (UMH 416)

You will quickly notice when singing this spiritual that the wilderness is a sought-after place of refining and connection with the living God. All the questions in this song relate to the effect of being in the wilderness (“How did you feel,” “Did you love everybody,” “Did your soul feel happy”), and we can assume that being in the wilderness is an intimate experience with God that causes us to be more loving. A number of approaches are possible, from a choral singing straight from the hymnal to a more bluesy, band-driven approach echoing a performance practice like this. A song leader is vital to singing this work, however, to move the congregation into the responses. If someone in your community is able to freely improvise in a call-and-response manner, make sure to use his/her gifts by leading this song. It is also possible to maintain a stark contrast between the refrain and stanzas, and I would encourage the refrain to be quieter and gentler. However, a more wailing quality can also be appropriate. Read History of Hymns: "Come Out of the Wilderness" »