Music to End the Day Sunday, 13 September 2020
In the Lutheran Church, it is common practice for each hymn to be introduced, not by a simple ‘player’ of the tune, but by a fully developed ‘chorale prelude’, either composed or improvised. J.S. Bach wrote hundreds of magnificent chorale preludes, covering every Sunday of the Church’s year and a wide range of liturgical themes. ‘Wenn wir in höchsten Nothen sein’ is headed ‘in times of trouble’, and it seems very appropriate for us to use it as part of our reflection tonight when concerns for the health of our nation appear to be on the rise. The words of the hymn, in Catherine Winkworth’s translation, are as follows:
‘When in the hour of utmost need
we know not where to look for aid;
when days and nights of anxious thought
no help or counsel yet have brought:
Then is our comfort this alone,
that we may meet before Thy throne.
And cry, O faithful God, to Thee
For rescue from our misery.’
Organ prelude – Wenn wir in höchsten Nöthen sein
‘When in our hour of greatest need’ BWV 641 composed by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Back in April 1997, the BBC invited us to deliver live Sunday Worship on Radio 4 in a special programme entitled ‘1000 days to the Millennium’. During the broadcast David Moore, then City Centre Chaplain, delivered inspiring words of renewal and revival, and choir gave the first performance of a new piece which I had written specially for the occasion, based on a visionary text from Revelation 21. A few days later we sang the piece again at a special Civic Service to celebrate Milton Keynes Council becoming a unitary authority. Last year I felt honoured when the BBC chose the piece to ‘represent’ Milton Keynes in an item on Radio 4’s Today programme. After more stirring words from George this morning on the renewal of God’s people emerging from Covid-19, it seemed appropriate that we should hear this music again tonight.
I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem.
I heard a great voice from the throne:
‘Behold the dwelling of God is with people,
He shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes
And death will be no more,
Neither shall there be mourning and pain any more
Behold I make all things new.’
Anthem – I saw a new heaven [Behold I make all things new]
Words: Revelations 21: 1–5. Composed by Adrian Boynton.
To end our evening, a Prayer of Renewal:
When I feel I have nothing left to give, Lord, take my weariness and emptiness and fill me with your strength.
As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for you.
When I am tired and weary, raise me up on wings like eagles.
Strengthen me with your word and your Spirit.
Renew me with your love.
Give me grace for the moment.
You are the God of abundance and you offer yourself freely to us.
Renew my faith and joy in my daily tasks, knowing your presence is there ministering to my heart.
You are never far, Lord.
Realign my heart to walk with you each moment, drawing on the strength that you give.
Thank you, Lord, for your promises and for fresh grace today.