In lieu of a sermon for July 21, I asked church members in advance to submit their three favorite hymns, including a few words about why each was particularly memorable. I then assembled a number of the selections into a hymnsing, with these favorite hymns tied together with a few words under the theme “Songs for the Seasons of Life.” So, since I usually post sermons here, I figured I might also share these hymns and words here as well!
Call to Worship (from Psalm 71:17-18, 20, 23)
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and still I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me;
until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come.
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.
My lips will shout for joy
and sing praise to you!
Creation and Birth
Hymn: “God Is Here!”
God is indeed here in our midst as we worship and sing praise.
God has been with us from the beginning of time,
and from the beginning of our lives God has called us to lift our voices in thanksgiving.
Throughout all our lives, God’s presence surrounds us.
The psalmist wonders aloud:
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
The hymns that sustain us in our faith remind us of these things:
that in life and in death we belong to God,
that all creation joins in awesome wonder
to consider the breadth and depth of God’s love,
that the stars, the rolling thunder, the woods and forest glades sing of God’s praise,
and that all creation lifts its voice to sing, “How great Thou art!”
Hymn: “How Great Thou Art” (v. 1-2)
Childhood: Growing in God’s Love
From our earliest days, we come to know the breadth and depth of God’s love.
The songs we sing as children echo throughout our lives
and remind us in every season of life that Jesus loves each and every one of us.
So many of our favorite hymns begin in childhood experiences,
in those transformative early moments of faith
where our lives are marked with words that proclaim the wonder of God’s love,
This is no wonder,
for in a day and age when children were to be neither seen nor heard,
when those who followed him tried to turn away children who sought to touch him,
Jesus spoke up and welcomed the children into his midst:
Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them;
for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.
Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.
The hymns that mark our days remind us that God loves us,
however old or young we may be,
and give us strength to proclaim all our days,
“Yes, Jesus loves me.”
Hymn: “Jesus Loves Me” (v. 1)
Hymn: “Fairest Lord Jesus” (v. 1 & 4)
Passing the Peace
All honor, praise, and glory, belong to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace,
who steps into our world and proclaims peace beyond understanding
and invites us to share it with one another and all the world.
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
A Lifetime of Commitment
As we grow up in the faith and mature into the followers of Christ that God invites us to be,
God calls us to make commitments to show God’s love in our lives and in our world.
The prophet Isaiah heard the voice of God calling out to him:
Whom shall I send,
and who will go for us?
He could say nothing more than these simple words:
Here am I; send me!
Over and over again, God calls us to respond in our lives
and show the fullness of God’s love to everyone we meet.
The hymns that sustain us in our faith
give us words to express our response to God’s call,
to cry out, “Here I am, Lord; send me;”
to journey beyond our hopes and our fears and our dreams
to express the wonder of God’s grace,
and to stand up and follow in the challenging path of Jesus each and every day.
Hymn: “Here I Am, Lord” (v. 1)
Hymn: “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” (v. 1-2)
Just as God calls us to offer our lives in God’s service,
so God invites us to bring the fullness of our gifts before God,
for all that we have and all that we are comes from God,
and we can respond in faith and hope and joy all our days
as we proclaim that joy to the world.
So let us now bring the gifts of our lives before God
as we gather our tithes and offerings.
Doxology: “Joy to the World!” (v. 1)
Prayer of Thanksgiving
God’s Presence in the Challenges of Our Days
Amidst all the joy that we see in our world,
we know that there are still challenges in our lives.
Day after day, we face difficulty and strife head on,
whether in the darkness of our lives
or in the challenges of living in changing times.
The psalmist knew these moments well and cried out,
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Even so, he also knew that this was not the last word,
that God would transform his mourning into dancing
and would guide him into new life:
But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
And so we too sing to the Lord,
confident of God’s presence in times of joy and sorrow,
trusting that we will be lifted up as on eagles’ wings
and that we have nothing to dread or fear
when we lean on the everlasting arms.
Hymn: “On Eagles’ Wings”
Hymn: “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” (v. 1, 3)
Joys and Concerns of the Congregation
Prayers of the People and The Lord’s Prayer
Faithfulness Along the Journey
All along life’s journey,
the songs that sustain us in our faith
show us new horizons of God’s love in our lives.
We find God inviting us to open our eyes to new glimpses of truth,
the Holy Spirit blowing in the wilderness,
calling us to break ancient schemes and dream new dreams,
and the bold witness of Jesus calling us to be creators of justice, joy, compassion, and peace.
Wherever the journey of life leads,
God’s faithfulness sustains us and invites us too to be faithful all our days,
and the songs of the seasons of our lives give voice to our praise and our prayer.
Hymn: “Open My Eyes, That I May See”
Hymn: “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness” (v. 1 & 4)
Hymn: “For Everyone Born”
Death, Resurrection, and New Creation
Even when our lives come to an end,
the songs of our faith continue on.
Every time we bear witness to the resurrection for a sister or brother,
we proclaim our mortality and our hope:
All of us go down to the dust;
yet even at the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
And so the songs that sustain us in our faith cannot ignore death
even as they proclaim the sure and certain promise
that there is something far greater ahead for us.
The saints who journey before us and beside us in the faith
give us confidence and hope of God’s wondrous love,
and the promise of the new creation is sure and certain for them and for us:
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away;
see, everything has become new!
All of this is from God,
who reconciled us to himself through Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
since God is making his appeal through us;
we entreat you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
The songs of the seasons of our life proclaim this great hope
until this new creation is finished once and for all
and we cast our crowns before the Almighty,
lost in wonder, love, and praise, forever and ever and ever.
Hymn: “For All the Saints”
Hymn: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”
Charge and Benediction