Lent 2018 Worship Planning Series

Second Sunday in Lent 2018, Year B

With a theme like this, it may be tempting to move into heavy-handed “holier than thou, hyper-righteousness” mode. Instead, gentleness, transparency, and humility are needed. Prepare yourselves to model these things in the ways you as worship leaders lead today. There’s no shame in admitting we need help. We do. And thanks be to God, God is ready to offer help to one and all, through prayer, through sacrament, and through our interactions with others in our daily lives.


Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (Metered) [Africana Hymnal 4012]

“Long-meter” hymn singing is a remarkable tradition within the African American church. The term “long meter” does not relate to the syllabic meter of the text, but the style in which the text is sung. Long-meter hymns are most often sung a cappella, although accompaniment can be added. This style of singing requires a confident leader to guide the congregation through the music, and it also requires experience from within the congregation. For examples on contextual performance practice, see the video “Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice” from Discipleship Ministries. Read History of Hymns: "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" »

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (ZION) [Africana Hymnal 4013]

If you have never considered using the tune ZION to the singing of this hymn, it definitely adds a different dimension to the text, which itself is well suited to the season of Lent. The imperative within the title implies that the singer is comfortable making a request of God, especially when faced with the stress and anxiety of walking within the wilderness. The wilderness, however, is a subject of intense personal experience, and often it becomes a place of refuge where connection with God and a refining of the heart take place. Using this tune might help to present a different understanding of the wilderness in the same way that theologically reconsidering the nature of the wilderness can prove helpful. I suggest singing the 3/4 tune more in a 9/8 feel, where the dotted-eighth/sixteenth patterns feel more like triplets. A tempo of quarter note = 60 would make this possible. Read History of Hymns: "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" »

Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart (UMH 500)

This hymn by George Croly is a classic text from the nineteenth century in which a series of pleas are offered to the Spirit of God. In this worship service of the “Rehab” series, this hymn can be powerful in helping people understand their own needs for intervention. In singing it, the prayer is that God would continually work in us, that love might consume us and be our only desire. MORECAMBE is a beautiful tune that your congregation should know, especially in its musical passion in the last two lines as it moves to the climax at the beginning of the final line. However, if your church is not familiar with this tune, another option would be to use the tune FINLANDIA (“Be Still My Soul,” “This Is My Song,”), and sing the last two lines twice to complete the stanza for that tune. Read History of Hymns: "Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart" »

Fix Me, Jesus (Africana Hymnal 4123 or UMH 655)

The Africana Hymnal and The United Methodist Hymnal contain two different settings of this well-known spiritual. Either is appropriate for singing in any context, and we encourage you to consider both and choose the one most accessible for your setting. The phrase “fix me” has a number of different interpretations, from repairing or making right (or healing/mending), to preparing. Any or all of these are correct in the context of this song, and discussing this with the congregation might offer them the ability to consider, while singing, what definition of “fix” most fits their immediate situation. The spiritual is best sung by a choir, either a cappella or with piano or organ accompaniment. The singing should be slow and prayerful. Read History of Hymns: "Fix Me, Jesus" »

Take Up Thy Cross (UMH 415)

Every stanza of this hymn begins with the same phrase–”Take up thy cross”–a call to discipleship from Jesus (Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24). A key part of the commitment to be a disciple is not being fooled into thinking that following Jesus will eliminate struggle and conflict. “Taking up our cross” is a daily exercise in sharing the suffering of Jesus and our neighbors. The first stanza is a paraphrase of the Scripture passages, while the other three offer commentary. Therefore, it may be appropriate to consider this when singing. If the tune is unfamiliar to the congregation, have a soloist (adult or child) introduce the melody by singing the first stanza, with the congregation singing the commentary within the final three stanzas. Read History of Hymns:"Take Up Thy Cross" »

I’ve Been ’Buked (SOZ 143)

Mahalia Jackson is well known for singing many songs, but this one in particular was a favorite when she sang it at the March on Washington in 1963. This song is found in the United Methodist collection Songs of Zion with a unison melody. It should be sung in a very slow, rubato fashion, as illustrated by Mahalia Jackson in this video. You will quickly note that the melody is quite different from what is printed on the page, but it is encouraged to improvise upon the notes and rhythm of the melody. It will be up to you to decide whether this is an option for your entire congregation to sing, or more suitable as a solo in your context. Either option will work!

Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies) [CCLI #6440288]

The inclusion of a song with warlike imagery might be a surprise to many, but we ask you to consider the theme of this series and the nature of power shifts when people are suddenly confronted with the nature of their addiction or weakness. Warlike imagery is problematic when sung from a place of power, but the incorporation of this imagery within a troubled place of brokenness (or a void of power) can yield a different result. This same imagery can be the words people cling to when confronting the demons that dwell within. Even though the melody seems to have been a lesser consideration than rhythm in this song, the repetition of both melody and rhythm help the congregation sing the words. The chorus might prove to be too high in your context, so the ideal key is Bb. Accompaniment can vary from a solo, pulsing piano on quarter-notes to a full band with vocal praise team.

Lift Every Voice and Sing (UMH 519)

No hymn tells the story of struggle as well as this classic hymn text from James Weldon Johnson. It does take a long time to sing, so be sure you have set aside plenty of time to sing it in its entirety at the close of the service. The tempo of J. Rosamond Johnson’s tune needs to be slow, with the dotted quarter = 46 or so. Accompany with organ, piano, or rhythm section, and be sure to prepare the choir in plenty of time so they can learn all the parts. Regarding breathing, the leader and choir should not breathe within the words at the end of the second, fourth, and eighth lines (“liberty,” “rolling,” and “victory is”). In its singing, also find a way to make sure the congregation knows the context of the hymn, which can be found in History of Hymns: "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Find another poignant musical, theological, and poetic exploration of the hymn here »

Come, Ye Disconsolate (UMH 510)

Singing this hymn during Communion offers an invitation to the Table for those who feel lost or broken. In the midst of this Rehab series, hearing the words “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal [or cure]” speaks of God’s grace in the midst of the meal. Receiving the bread and cup, kneeling, and praying become a part of the healing that takes place at Christ’s Table. The CONSOLATOR tune is best sung when supported by a four-part, SATB choir, particularly on the last line of the tune, where a leap of a sixth is prominent in the first measure. If a song leader is used in your congregation, she or he should use a gentle, supportive, upward moving gesture just before that leap to embody the shape of the phrase and let the congregation know to prepare for a sudden, upward movement of the melodic line. Ideal accompaniment can vary with this hymn, and there are a number of accompaniment options ranging from a cappella choir or organ to piano or small instrumental ensemble. Keep the tempo moving at quarter note = 80-88.

Chain Breaker (CCLI #7060031)

This modern worship song recalls some of the same sentiments from Charles Wesley’s “And Can It Be that I Should Gain” by characterizing Jesus as a liberator and one who has power over sin and death. The tune is joyful and syncopated and could best be accompanied by full band, although a solo acoustic guitar would also work well. The ideal key for congregational singing is G.

Wherever He Leads I’ll Go (CCLI #25194)

A fine song of commitment resembling “Where He Leads Me” in the United Methodist Hymnal, the crux of the text is the commitment to follow Jesus wherever he leads. The tune is written in a familiar early twentieth-century gospel style, and the tune is very singable. The recommended tempo on CCLI of quarter note = 80 might be too slow to keep the tempo moving and support the breath of the congregation. Plus, it tends to feel that it lacks momentum at that tempo. I suggest thinking in 6/8 instead of 6/4, with the quarter note = 132. This will allow the congregation to sing and not lose support in the middle of phrases. The original key of F provides an ideal range for most singers.

Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone (UMH 424)

This text and tune combination has a very sentimental quality, which adds to the lyrical appeal of the melody. In his Companion to The United Methodist Hymnal, Carlton Young points out that the melody is almost the exact same as Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” set in a different meter. Singing this text with either tune setting would be appropriate. If using MAITLAND, however, I encourage ensuring a steady tempo of quarter note = 104-108 to support the breath of the congregation. Ideal accompaniment is organ or piano.

Another approach to this text would be incorporating Keith Hampton’s choral work, “Praise His Holy Name,” into the service. The piece features the first stanza and is a fun selection for adult and youth choirs alike. Watch a video of this setting »