The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
August 15, 2021
12th Sunday after Pentecost
PRAYER OF PREPARATION Liturgy of Malabar 5th century
Grant, O Lord Jesus, that the ears which have heard the voice of your songs may be closed to the voice of dispute; that the eyes which have seen your great love may also behold your blessed hope; that the tongues which have sung your praise may speak the truth in love; that the feet which have walked in your courts may walk in the region of light; and that the bodies which have received your living body may be restored in newness of life. Glory to you for your inexpressible gift. Amen
CALL TO WORSHIP
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness, come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are his; we are his people; the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise his name
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Come, let us worship the Lord.
CALL TO CONFESSION
The proof of God’s amazing love is this: while we were sinners Christ died for us. Because we have faith in Him, we dare to approach God with confidence. In faith and penitence, let us confess our sin before God and one another.
CONFESSION OF SINS
Holy and merciful God, in your presence we confess our sinfulness, our shortcomings, and our offenses against you. You alone know how often we have sinned in wandering from your ways, in wasting your gifts, in forgetting your love. Have mercy on us, o Lord, for we are ashamed and sorry for all we have done to displease you. Forgive our sins, and help us to live in your light, and walk in your ways, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Savior.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Hear the good news! Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose in us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old life has gone, a new life has begun. Know that you are forgiven and be at peace. Amen.
RESPONSE No. 647 Give Thanks
PEACE OF CHRIST
Hear the teaching of Christ, let us forgive one another and so may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you. Amen
ANTHEM Saint-Saens Sonata for Oboe and Piano Katie Foth and Jack Hill
CHILDREN’S MESSAGE Laken Franchetti
SCRIPTURE Ephesians 5:15-20 Kristen Franchetti
SERMON Music of the Heart
Over the past number of months, as we continue in celebration of 300 years as a church, we have highlighted many of the missions, ministries, and outreaches of our family through the years. This will be continuing not just through this year, but undoubtedly into next year as well; as some things had to be postponed because of the pandemic. This will not be a spoiler alert but hopefully an enticement – the service starting to come together for October 3rd should have special meaning in so many ways, not the least of which will be the music.
Music has always been an integral part of the worship experience, and it is one which is highly valued here at our home church. But since we are into reflecting back, let us do the same by looking at scripture. You heard the words of the Apostle Paul saying, be filled not with wine but with the spirit, speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything. This is Paul speaking to the church in Ephesus. It is the words of Jesus, it is the command of the new covenant, to live and speak and celebrate with praise our relationship with Jesus Christ.
But we can go back farther, to the book of Psalms – indeed to Psalm 150, the last of the psalms. Hear this reading from the Old Testament, in the phrasing of Eugene Peterson:
Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise Him under the open skies. Praise Him for his acts of power, praise Him for his magnificent greatness, praise with a blast on the trumpet. Praise by strumming soft strings; praise Him with banjo and flute. Praise Him with cymbals and a big bass drum.
Praise Him with fiddles and mandolin. Let every living, breathing creature praise God! Hallelujah.
Music and song were an integral part of the Old Testament worship. David introduced music into the tabernacle and temple services and it has remained in the Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, reformed, and denominational and non-denominational houses of worship throughout the world.
Turning back now to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, it is another chapter in his teachings for us on being careful in how to live. We are called to be wise, make good choices, not waste our time, but we must fill our lives with purpose. In this section he uses an example, something so many of that day and, I am supposing, of the current day as well can easily grasp. Do not be filled with wine, embracing a state of drunkenness, but be filled with the spirit. Years ago AC Welch, preaching on this passage began with a simple sentence, you’ve got to fill a person with something. Anybody can be filled with the pleasures of the secular world; but in a real sense they will still be empty. We, as Christians, find our happiness and our satisfaction in the fact that we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Barclay’s synopsis and dialogues on the gospels tell us this about the Christian gatherings in the early days of the church.
The early church was a singing church. Its characteristic was psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The early church had a happiness which made them sing.
The early church was a thankful church. Their instinct was to give thanks for all things and in all places and at all times. They were a thankful church because their members were still dazzled with the wonder that God’s love had stooped to save them and they were a thankful church for they were convinced that all things had indeed come from God.
The early church was a church where people honored and respected each other, because they reverenced Christ, and they wanted to see all those around them only in the light of Christ.
This lesson, this challenge is there in front of us today. Can we worship in praise for our Lord? Can we sing from our hearts, hearts devoted to God? Can we give thanks for all things, each and every day? And can we see all around us as fellow brothers and sisters, no matter their background, age, race, religion, station in life? Can we always only see others in the light of Christ?
Music of the heart – we are singing such music today. And, oh my, did we not just witness some beautiful music of the heart from Katie and Jack. It has been such a treasure to have Katie back assisting in our worship today. I reached out to her in May, when I knew I would be preaching this summer, and she got right back to me with a yes, especially to do a duet with Jack. Now, at the time, I wasn’t sure about which scripture to use from the lectionary, but once I read them all, what a perfect match. It seemed to be the holy spirit always works wonders.
There is something unique about this piece as well. Camille Saint-Seans composed this piece in 1921, thus this sonata is marking its centennial celebration. This particular sonata was one of 3 for wind instruments; the other two were for clarinet and bassoon, composed the same year – ironically Saint-Seans died a few months after. These works were part of Saint-Seans’ efforts to expand the repertoire for instruments hardly ever given solo parts. He told his compatriots; at this moment I am concentrating my last resources on giving rarely considered instruments the chance to be heard.
Is this not what the Apostle Paul was asking us as well, when he asked us to be imitators of God? For we were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. Live wisely making the most of every opportunity.
There is a direct analogy here – that beautiful sonata, that music of the heart from one composer was written for the sole purpose of giving instruments, who though vital to the community of the orchestra, are so often overlooked and ignored; giving them an opportunity to stand alone, to bask in the sun, to offer their talents. If one person can do that for 3 instruments, consider the incredible impact of each of us doing the same for so many people hidden in the shadows and the background, so many overlooked or simply taken for granted. Imagine the symphony of the heart that might bring about.
As it so happens, in researching for other backgrounds for this sermon, I came across a 1999 American biographical musical drama film, Music of the Heart, based on the 1995 documentary, Small Wonders. It is a dramatization of the true story of Roberta Guaspari, who co-founded the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music and fought for music education funding in the New York city public schools.
In 1988 in New York City, Roberta Guaspari, a recently divorced violinist, lives with her two sons, Alexi and Nicholas Tzavaras, and her mother, Assunta Guaspari. With Assunta’s encouragement, Guaspari attempts to rebuild her life and is recommended to the headteacher of East Harlem’s Central Park East School. Despite having little experience in actual music teaching, she accepts a substitute violin teaching position. With great determination, she inspires a group of children and their initially skeptical parents. The program slowly develops and attracts publicity; expanding to other local schools.
Ten years later the board of education eliminates most of the funding which leads to Guaspari losing her job. Determined to fight this, she enlists the support of former pupils, parents, and teachers to plan a benefit concert. But with a few weeks to go, the concert loses its venue. However, the husband of a friend is a violinist in the Guarneri Quartet, and he enlists the support of other well-known musicians, including Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman – who arrange for the concert to be held at Carnegie Hall.
Too good to be true. Sounds like a movie. Well, it was both – true and a movie. But again, it was even more. It was about someone looking out for those not always given the spotlight, those not always the most popular, but those who were seeking only to learn how to play music. So they could shine a light on all who listened and heard and perhaps go and do the same on a different stage in their own way.
Music in the church – so vital to the whole worship experience, and let us not ever get too caught up in the whole debate about what constitutes praise music. Paul would tell us, now that is a waste of time because it is all praise music. Wendy’s solo last week – Thy Will, is praise music. The sonata today is praise music. The hymns we sing each week are praise music. Singing Jesus Loves Me to a little child is praise music. Humming Be Still My Soul is praise music. Our lives, focused on Jesus Christ, and carrying His light through the world, is indeed music to God’s ears.
Yes, music in the church is vital. So too is music in the schools, and certainly music in our homes. But it can even go beyond that as I discovered again this past Monday morning. It was around 5:30 or so, and I went out on the deck where we were staying in Bethany Beach. It overlooks a small lake and it is very special at sunrise.
I came to realize even more, that we must take time to listen to the music all around us, and not just the music on our digital devices, or the radio or I am happy to say again our turntables. For music is often so much more inclusive than any of those.
For I heard the music of the blue heron, standing in the water near the bank, greeting that golden sunrise with a small warble and a constant stare that lets you know that he has certainly seen this light before.
There was the music of a bright yellow sun rising slowly in the east over the pines and the lake. Rising in constant purpose and tone like a string ensemble in an overture to the new day now beginning. There was the music of the little silver fish, almost dancing across the lake, to greet the warming sun – dancing like tiny ballerinas, coming forth to dance to the awakening of life in this one small lake that God had created. Created in the music of his heart, created to be witnessed, to be heard, and to be loved by us.
So let us, like the old church
Let us be a church that sings always, the music from our hearts.
Let us be a church that gives thanks, for all things, even those challenges which sometimes ask us to be even more prayerful.
Let us still be dazzled with the wonder of God’s love.
And let us be a church where all people are honored and respected, where all are given a chance and where we, see all only in the light of Christ.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; in Him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible. All things have been created through Him and for Him. He himself is before all things, and in Him all things are held together. He is the head of the body, the church, He is the beginning, the first born of the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him God was pleased to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood
of his cross. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as itis in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
PRESENTATION OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERING
RESPONSE No. 609 Praise God From Whom All People Here Below