Fifth Sunday in Lent – Paul’s Hymn Blog

Fifth Sunday in Lent – Paul’s Hymn Blog

Sunday, March 18 2018

Psalm 51; John 12:20-33

by Paul Stott


MV 162 – Christ within Us Hidden (2005)

This hymn explores a number of images of encounter with Christ. Author Curtis Tufts grew up in Calgary Alberta, and is a life-long member of the United Church of Canada. After first dropping out of confirmation class, he re-entered the church through a lively Hi-C youth ministry, and was a candidate for ordained ministry by the ripe age of 18. He studied at the University of Calgary and St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon, was ordained in 1981 and has ministered in Peace River AB, Maymont SK, Calgary AB, Saltcoats SK, and Spruce Grove AB. Frustrated with the words available in the hymn books of the day, he began writing new hymn lyrics to familiar tunes in 1985.

The text is set to ALEXANDER, composed by Sid Woolfrey, a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland, with a B.A. and B.Ed. in Psychology and English. Later, through studies in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and St. Pierre, he specialized in French. He has studied music at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. A church organist since the age of 12, he has directed musical theatre for elementary and junior high school students, has many years of experience directing community and church choirs, and for 30 years was church organist and choir director for the Herring Neck Pastoral Charge in Newfoundland. Throughout that time, he conducted several choir workshops for all ages, focusing on the ministry of music in worship and the melding of music and liturgy. Sid also served as a member of the More Voices Development Team. He believes music is a language accessible and meaningful to all in our congregations.

MV 125 – When a Grain of Wheat (copyright 1981)

This lovely text is based on an image found in our gospel text for the day. Author Toyohiko Kagawa was born in 1888 in Kobe, Japan. Orphaned early, he lived first with his widowed stepmother and then with an uncle. He enrolled in a Bible class in order to learn English, and in his teens he became a Christian and was disowned by his family. In his late teens, he attended Presbyterian College in Tokyo for three years. He decided that he had a vocation to help the poor, and that in order to do so effectively he must live as one of them. Accordingly, from 1910 to 1924 he lived for all but two years in a shed six feet square (about 180 cm) in the slums of Kobe. In 1912 he unionized the shipyard workers. He spent two years (1914-1916) at Princeton studying techniques for the relief of poverty. In 1918 and 1921 he organized unions among factory workers and among farmers. He worked for universal male suffrage (granted in 1925) and for laws more favorable to trade unions. In 1923 he was asked to supervise social work in Tokyo. His writings began to attract favorable notice from the Japanese government and abroad. He established credit unions, schools, hospitals, and churches, and wrote and spoke extensively on the application of Christian principles to the ordering of society. He founded the Anti-War League, and in 1940 was arrested after publicly apologizing to China for the Japanese invasion of that country. In the summer of 1941 he visited the United States in an attempt to avert war between Japan and the US. After the war, despite failing health, he devoted himself to the reconciliation of democratic ideals and procedures with traditional Japanese culture. He died in Tokyo 23 April 1960. The setting is by Ushio Takahashi and the English translation of the text by Frank Y. Ohtomo.

VU 183 – We Meet You, O Christ (1966)

Prolific hymn poet Fred Kaan wrote this text for a television program in the BBC series Seeing and Believing in1966. The program idea came from a photograph of an apple tree growing in the ruins of a bombed-out Plymouth church. The text stresses the humanity of Christ, the suffering servant, with a strong message of resurrection in the final verse.

The tune, LIFE, is by Peter D. Smith, first appearing in his 1969 collection Faith, Folk and Festivity.


VU 948 – O God, Hear My Prayer (1982)

Our prayer response comes to us from Jacques Berthier, organist and composer who arranged much of the service music for the Taizé community in France.


VU 147 – What Wondrous Love is This (ca. 1811)

This American folk hymn circulated in the oral tradition and was first published in two words- only hymnals in 1811 in slightly different versions, one of six stanzas and one of seven. The four stanzas that we sing are found in both versions with minor variations. Carl Daw states “It is possible to think of this text as a 19th-century Christianized version of the opening of Psalm 103, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul.’ Here the thanksgiving is primarily directed to Christ, who is perceived in terms of the kenosis theology of Philippians 2:5-11. . . The fourth stanza is a wonderful affirmation that the heightened existence of the life to come will require enhanced communication: no more speech, only song.”

The hexatonic tune was originally published in the appendix of William Walter’s shape note collection The Southern Harmony (Philadelphia, 1840). The composer was James Christopher of Spartanburg S.C.

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