Lent 2018 Worship Planning Series

Fourth Sunday in Lent 2018, Year B

Today we celebrate what it means to continue into the stage of Rehab where we start to see some real recovery taking place. We’re not all the way there, any more than we’re at Easter in just the fourth Sunday in Lent. And indeed, the degree to which we may start to experience recovery during rehab is often mirrored by a nearly equal sense of how far we still have to go, what is still not working as it really should, or, in this case, how we are still living out sinful, destructive patterns of behavior that still need to be addressed. But we still have some reason to rejoice.


All People That on Earth Do Dwell (UMH 75)

Widely known in many churches as “the doxology,” the OLD 100TH tune was originally written, arranged, or adapted by Louis Bourgeois to be paired with a setting of Psalm 134. Here we find it set to William Kethe’s 1561 setting of Psalm 100. Sing this hymn boldly, and do not allow the tune to drag, lest the tune lose its cheerfulness. Embody the joy of the hymn text, and instruct your choir to do the same! If you do not have a supportive choir, the congregation in many settings will be able to sing this tune confidently because of its wide liturgical use. Sing a cappella, or accompany with organ, piano, and/or brass. Read History of Hymns: "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" »

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (UMH 89)

Not all major classical works become hymn tunes, although many do! We have excerpts from Bach, Brahms, Haydn, Holst, and Sibelius (among others) in our United Methodist collections, and this favorite from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 is one of the most prominent. Henry Van Dyke’s text is a celebratory offering for congregations as they offer praise to God. Accompany with organ or piano, or even with a string quartet or quintet to create an orchestral atmosphere reminiscent of Beethoven’s masterwork. Read History of Hymns: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" »

Come, Now Is the Time to Worship (W&S 3176)

Many songs from the 1990s are beginning to feel like standards in the modern worship repertoire, and this Vineyard song is a great representation of that era. Though the address shifts in the song (it begins about the congregation and changes to God), it is clear that takes place at the hinge point of the verse and chorus. Sing as a worship opener accompanied by band, solo guitar, or piano. As always, try to not play the melody with the piano. Instead, improvise a simple accompaniment based upon an easily repetitive pattern.

Here I Am to Worship (W&S 3177)

Set in the same key as “Come, Now Is the Time to Worship” and immediately adjacent to the same title in Worship & Song, this song is the perfect transition in an opening worship set. This well-known work from Tim Hughes focuses upon the worshiper and assuming a position of humility in worship. Continue the accompaniment in the set with the same instrumentation as the previous title: band, solo guitar, or piano.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (UMH 298 or 299)

Found at both 298 and 299 in The United Methodist Hymnal, you will have the choice of two tunes to use in worship. I would wager to say that HAMBURG (298) is the more frequently used tune, but ROCKINGHAM (299) is a better setting for the text itself. HAMBURG, by Lowell Mason, is simple and both easily recognizable and singable. I do not discourage its use, but I also recommend the other tune as an option that lifts up Isaac Watts’ text in ways Mason’s tune does not. For instance, the opening phrase is pitched so that the leap to “the wondrous cross” almost directs our attention upward, to gaze upon Christ on the cross. Also, the triple meter places the opening syllabic emphasis in a better place. To better understand this comment, say the word “Forbid,” and then sing the word in the HAMBURG setting. You will find the rhythmic emphasis is on the wrong syllable! Accompany either setting with an organ or piano. One benefit of the HAMBURG setting is its ease in singing a cappella by many choirs. Read History of Hymns: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" »

The Wonderful Cross (CCLI #3148435)

One of the reasons “The Wonderful Cross” is so popular is because of its inclusion of a long-favorite hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Similar in style to “Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone,” Chris Tomlin and others have continued the tradition of using a familiar hymn and adding a chorus. This hymn in particular is very simple because it contains only the original stanzas of the hymn and the new chorus, with no bridge or additional material. It can be accompanied by a variety of instruments from piano/organ to full band, and the ideal key is D. Make sure not to double the melody in the chorus with the instrumental accompaniment. The syncopation found in that section can easily become bogged down and clumsy when that occurs. For more commentary from a Wesleyan perspective, be sure to visit the CCLI Top 100 project and search for this song.

We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder (UMH 418)

Like many spirituals, there is a wide variety of performance practice with this hymn. William Farley Smith has set it in 2/2 meter, but it is also possible to adjust it to fit into a 3/4 or 3/2 meter. If accompanying with piano or organ in 2/2, you are encouraged to improvise and even swing the rhythm a bit. If playing in Db (five flats) is not in the ability of your keyboardist, it is also possible to play as-is in the key of D, with the natural signs played as sharps, and the flats played as naturals. Songs with such rich and vivid imagery as this one also make great settings for church dance ministries to offer movement that lifts up the text.

Jesus, Thine All-Victorious Love (UMH 422)

Charles Wesley has skillfully encapsulated the nature of grace in this hymn as it explores the beginnings of faith and the ever-continuing work of sanctification. Paired with AZMON, it becomes a vibrant proclamation of our faith in God and the work God has done through Christ. Like many of Wesley’s hymns, the meter doesn’t always make it easy to keep the syllabic emphasis consistent across the stanzas (notice “Jesus” is musically emphasized on the second syllable instead of the first, but “refining” works perfectly). However, do not rule out this hymn because of that tiny issue! Sing this with your congregation, and they will simultaneously sing a public witness of praise to God and build a deeper theological vocabulary. Accompany with organ or piano, or create an arrangement of AZMON for your band. G is the ideal key. Read History of Hymns: "Jesus, Thine All Victorious Love" »

O God, Our Help in Ages Past (UMH 117)

Regardless of the style of your worship, many people may be familiar with this standard Isaac Watts hymn, which is found in an endless number of hymnals. The setting of the common-metered hymn provides enough brevity to sing all six stanzas in most contexts, along with some creativity in assigning stanzas to different groups, and even multiple modulations. A plethora of musical settings for various ensembles exist for this tune. Here is a recent setting for handbell ensembles. Lastly, this hymn is so beloved that even two History of Hymns articles were written to explore this hymn more deeply. You can find them here and here.

Restless (CCLI #5762008)

Abiding in the love of God is a difficult discipline, and it takes time, space, and vulnerability. Audrey Assad and Matt Maher grasp this in this very intimate song, which deals with the restlessness we experience when we feel somehow disconnected from God’s love. We know that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel differently. Maintaining spiritual disciplines, however, and “attending to the ordinances of God” can help us feel as connected to God as we already are. Even though a full band can sing this song, I suggest an intimate singing with solo guitar, and maybe even a low string instrument for contrast. The original key of B is a great option, although less experienced guitarists might need to utilize a capo when playing in this key.

Love Lifted Me (W&S 3101)

Two stanzas of this hymn have been included in Worship & Song, and the text draws the singer into the saving power of Jesus’ love through the narratives of Jesus calming the storm and inviting Peter to walk upon the water. The tune embodies the triumph of Jesus as he harnessed the power of creation, so sing boldly and defiantly! The hymn in this format is best accompanied by piano because of the percussive nature of the instrument. Organ is also possible, but it might require a bit more work to maintain an upbeat tempo.

Son Was Lifted Up (CCLI #7066055)

This modern worship song embodies the same source of strength from Jesus’ love as “Love Lifted Me,” but in a more contemporary context. The melody and rhythm is simple and repetitive, but the range of the original key is too high for most congregations. A or Bb would be recommended, along with the continued singing of the verses in the lower octave. We also recommend not singing the second chorus because of this song’s use in the liturgy as part of the Lenten season. Accompaniment can range from piano to guitar and/or band.

My Life Flows On (TFWS 2212)

Also entitled, “How Can I Keep from Singing,” this classic Robert Lowry hymn shows somewhat of a staunch defiance in the midst of tribulation. The tune and text are often sung now by children’s and mixed SATB choirs as a brilliant example of an idiomatic early American work. In The Faith We Sing, the meter changes frequently, but in order to stabilize the pulse and make it more predictable for congregational singing, it is also possible to keep the 3/2 meter throughout and simply elongate notes (usually the third note of each phrase) to keep the triple meter. However, it is also possible to sing as written, but the congregation will need access to the printed score in addition to the words. Either sing a cappella or with organ or piano accompaniment. If you have access to strings, a quartet would also play this beautifully and add a rich dimension to the singing. Read History of Hymns: "My Life Flows On" »