Sunday, October 18, 2015

St. Luke the Evangelist

October 18 is the date the church celebrates St. Luke the Evangelist. In the one year lectionary for this date (2 Timothy 4:5-15), Paul acknowledges Luke as his faithful companion on his missionary travels (as he also does in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24). What else we know is from early extra-canonical sources — as when he is reported as a physician in the 4th century Church History by Eusebius.

Luke’s Gospel and its Sequel

As our preacher noted this morning, the words contributed by St. Luke to the New Testament canon (with the third gospel and Acts of the Apostles) is second only the Pauline Epistles. The Acts of the Apostles provide a unique and invaluable account of the early church, but it was only earlier this year did I realize the unique contribution of Luke’s gospel.

Yes, Luke has unique parables, including the the Fig Tree (13:1-9), Lost Coin (15:8-10) and Prodigal Son (15:11-32). Luke 18 has the remarkable contrast of the Pharisee (“I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector”) and the tax collector (“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!“).

But what I find remarkable is how much of what we know of Jesus before his ministry — from the promise to Elizabeth through Jesus in the Temple — is found only in the first two chapter of Luke.

And as a musician (and an Episcopalian from childhood if not birth) what is also remarkable is how much of our liturgy comes from Luke. This includes the Benedictus of our morning prayer, the rejoicing of Zachararias after the birth of St. John (Luke 1:68-79):
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; * for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, * in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets, * which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies, * and from the hand of all that hate us.
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, * and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham, * that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies * might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him, * all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: * for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people * for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; * whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Perhaps more significantly — at least for many Catholics (and Anglo-Catholics) — the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) (used at evening prayer) from the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary:
My soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me; * and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; * as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
Finally, there is the Simeon's recognition of the diviity of Christ in Luke 2:29-32 (which we now use as the Nunc Dimittis in evening prayer):
LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, * according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen * thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, * and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Note: from my Lutheran days, all three can be found in the Missouri Synod liturgy (TLH, LSB), but the Nunc Dimitiss is used in the everyday communion service rather than evening prayer).

Invoking Luke

How do we acknowledge Luke? The 1928 BCP has a collect for this day
ALMIGHTY God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
that was modified in the (traditional) version of the 1979 prayer book:
Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son: Graciously continue in thy Church the like love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of thy Name; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The 1662 collect strikes similar themes with different words:
ALMIGHTY God, who calledst Luke the physician, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist, and Physician of the soul; May it please thee, that by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed, through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
and is only slightly modified from Cranmer’s 1549 original:
ALMIGHTIE God whiche calledst Luke the phisicion, whose prayse is in the gospell, to be a phisicion of the soule ; it may please thee, by the holsome medicines of his doctryne, to heale all the diseases of our soules; through thy sonne Jesus Christe our Lorde. 
Singing Praises for Luke

Beloved by the church, St. Luke is not quite forgotten in our Anglican hymnals. In each hymnal, as with the other saints he is is listed under Saints’ Days. Alas, he doesn’t rank with St. Michael (who had no earthly ministry), who warrants four hymns (#120-123) in H40, three in H82 (3282-284) and six in The English Hymnal.

Oremus recommended “Savior, who didst healing give,” a three verse hymn written in 1906 for TEH (#247) by Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley. TEH pairs it with Jesus Ist Da Schönste Licht, a 18th century tune by J.A. Freylinhausen.

Hymnal 1940 lists no hymns for Luke, and the “see also” choices are vaguely about science (#515) or healing (#516). Hymnal 1982 has a generic three-stanza hymn (#231-232) where the middle stanza can be adapted for any saint, Luke among them.

However, it also has four verses of a hymn specific to Luke (#285), “What thanks and praise to thee we owe” by William Dalrymple Maclagan, 1873, set to a 1753 tune Deus tuorum militum. H82 uses verses 1,6,7 and 8 of the 8 verse hymn, altering verse 7 for clarity and verse 8 for gender neutrality. H82 (as is its want) is harmony free, but on Sunday at the 28 BCP parish I attended, the music director used the PC words and applied what appeared to be his own harmonization.

Although the hymn was written by Maclagan —  a Cambridge graduate then rector at Newington and later Archbishop of York from 1891-1908 — it doesn’t appear in TEH, Songs of Praise (Extended Edition), or the New English Hymnal. Instead, implies that its first appearance was in the U.S. Hymnal 1892. The hymnal lists six (original texts) of the eight verses in (#172), set to Ely. The same six verses (#1,2,5-8) and tune appear in Hymnal 1916 (#292).

Friday, October 16, 2015

Music unites us — and divides us

On Sunday, the opening and closing hymns at the church we visited were “Glorious things of thee are spoken” (H40: 385) and “Songs of thankfulness and praise” (H40: 53). Everyone knew the hymns, we sang together, and we were united in song.

Hymns provide not just a unity in place, but in time. Yes, as a music minor I would probably have loved the respective tunes: Austria (tune by Haydn) and Salzburg (harmonized by Bach). More importantly, they are songs I have sung countless times over the decades — as a chorister, a young adult and now in middle age.

At the same time, some of my friends at another church were singing “Holiness.” At other praise band services, Christians were undoubtedly singing “Majesty,” “Shine Jesus Shine” or “Shout to the Lord”. While these song do not provide the continuity across generations or centuries of classic hymns, they do provide unity within a parish that learns and loves them.

Last month I attended a church planting workshop in the ACNA deanery of San Diego. Of the 30 or so people there, from what I know of their respective parishes, at least 25 worship each Sunday with some form of praise music — whether as the predominant style, or as part of a “blended” worship. Whether they chose this style — or the rector chose it as part of a conscious strategy to be more contemporary and welcoming to the culture — it is what they are used to.

During our two days, we did two morning prayer and one evening prayer services from the ACNA trial use liturgy. In using the ACNA liturgy over the past two years, it is my impression that the ACNA is a slightly less radical modernization than is Rite II of the 1979 prayer book. Perhaps more importantly, the differences between Rite I and II (and ACNA) are less dramatic in morning prayer than in Holy Communion.

So together, we were saying the same (mostly familiar) words, and had unity in worship, belief and purpose. This is exactly the reason Cranmer created the Book of Common Prayer.

However, if I went to their parishes — and I have been to many in the past year — I would feel like an alien or at least an outsider. Younger people who grew up on praise chorus music would feel alienated listening to Bach, Crüger, Vaughan Williams — or even Sullivan.

So at the risk of (re)stating the obvious, the Worship Wars between traditional and contemporary styles are more about the music, and less about the words. Some Anglo-Catholic leaders that I know and respect say they could give up their “thees and thous,” but that is a subject for another post.

However, I think there is a third point of difference if not division between the traditionalists and modernists: the process. When it comes to modernizing efforts, is the updating a one-time event that happens once every 400-500 years? Or is it an ongoing process — whether due to an ideology of modernization, change or quest for relevance — or a publisher’s business model of planned obsolescence?

One-time changes can and do happen, as when Luther, Cranmer and Vatican II shifted from Latin to the vernacular. These changes create disruption, but still allow continuity across generations and the centuries. Conversely, a belief in constant change – whether of liturgy or music — means that what we learned as children will obsolete by the time we escort our own children (or grandchildren) into the pews.

The TEC is committed to an ongoing process of change. The Continuing Anglicans and the REC have indicated their rejection of this ongoing process of change. For the broader ACNA, the jury is still out.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Jesus loves me … The Bible tells me so!

This morning a friend shared a newsletter mailing from Larry Warner, a professional Christian spiritual director she follows. The article began:
What if I told you that the children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me”, is a propaganda tool promoting a rationalist stance toward the Bible and subtly communicating that the Bible is not living, not active, not in need of the agency of the Holy Spirit to understand it. Rather, this song conveys that the truths of the Bible are arrived at by the applications of certain prescribed principles (hermeneutics), and a working knowledge of the original languages (primarily Hebrew and Greek) that leads to an intellectual assent to said truths.

Now, I have sung that song, encouraged others to sing that song on countless occasions. But in hindsight I now see it as heretical and unorthodox, for it deviates from the simple truth found in Romans 8 where Paul pens these words: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father! The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God…” It is not the Bible but the Spirit that declares it to be so – the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit!

The irony of the song … is that [it implies our] ability to have a personal relationship with Jesus who loves us … is a matter of doctrine, the Bible says it, so I believe it, rather than a truth that has been communicated to us in a personal way through the Holy Spirit that indwells us and in fact is the agent of that very love (Romans 5:5).
(Emphasis as in the original). I don’t have room to reprint and respond to the whole newsletter — nor would this be fair use — so I encourage those who are interested to read the argument in its original.

Visceral Reaction

My initial reaction was that this attack on the time-honored children’s hymn was exaggerated for effect. Fortunately, I was on the way to the gym and had an hour to mull it over.

And yes, this also upset me, because of my fond memories of the song, particularly upon the birth of our first child. After a sometimes anxiety-producing pregnancy, my wife and I were greatly relieved when she was born healthy. When I held her in my arms — only a few minutes in this world — all I could do was sing “Jesus loves me,“ both to let her know of God’s love, and also to acknowledge our gratitude to Him for making this possible. (It was totally spontaneous, and I was embarrassed that I could only recall one verse.)
About the Hymn

Ian Bradley in the Daily Telegraph Book of Hymns writes:
It was written by Anna Bartlett Warner (1820-1915). … [It] first appeared in Say and Seal (1859), a novel on which both [Warner and her sister Susan] collaborated. It rapidly achieved immense popularity as a Sunday School and missionary hymn.

[O]lder church members…remember from their youth the original rather surgery tune, written by William Batchelder Bradbury (1816-68). A native of Maine, Bradbury turned out a large number of Sunday School tunes including Woolworth which is still used for Charlotte Elliott’s hymn ‘Just as I am.’
The Cyberhymnal quotes several examples from Asian missionaries who used the song effectively in reaching children in the 19th century.

My copy of the Baptist Hymnal (1975) lists as written in 1860, with an 1862 tune. It lists four verses, as does The Cyberhymnal, although they disagree over the last two phrases of the fourth stanza. The three verses where they agree:
Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong—
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me—He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me—loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill;
From His shining throne on high
Comes to watch me where I lie.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
Theological Defense

As I worked out at the gym, I wonder what this was due to some defect in the commentator’s view of the Bible. But on the website of the firm he founded, he states:
We believe the Bible to be the infallible, authoritative word of God, written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

We believe that there is one true God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The other possible explanation is that such a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit is rooted in a Charismatic — IMHO excessively so — interpretation of faith.

I am not a theologian nor professionally trained, so rather than argue it point by point, let me offer two theological arguments.

First, per Sola scriptura (and Warner’s statement of faith), we Protestant Christians hold to the infallibility and completeness of Scripture. As Article VI of the 39 Articles states, “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation.” So relying on the Bible is something we are commanded to do, as both Paul (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and Peter (2 Peter 1:20-21) attest.

Second, some Reformed traditions emphasize that our personal response, our works or something else that we do is essential to our salvation. The Lutheran (nay, Christian) response to this is that because we are imperfect — all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) — we can never be sure whether or not we are “good enough.” What kind of loving God would put us through such torture? Instead, per Sola gratia we are saved by God’s perfect grace.

Pedagogical Defense

If we were in the same room, I suspect Warner and I would find some common ground — points where we overlap, even if we are not in complete agreement. And perhaps we could both agree that “The Bible tells us of God and His promises, but it also invites (even commands) us to have a relationship with Him through his Son and the work of the Holy Spirit.”

I am certainly willing to stipulate that the theology of this children’s hymn presents an oversimplified view of God. For example, it’s not at all Trinitarian but focuses on the one member of the Trinity who was witnessed (and personified) on this earth two millennia ago.

So what? We're talking about a song for preschoolers and elementary school age kids. Are we suggesting that once they learn this song, they can stop reading their children’s Bible and going to Sunday School? Of course not.

Any teacher — or parent - will tell you that you have to start somewhere. Oversimplification is inherent not only in dealing with small children, but also with any primer — a first exposure to a new concept.

So learning of the love of God the Son seems like a perfect place to start with preschoolers, but no, we don’t want to stop there. There are plenty of other hymns — not to mention Scripture, scriptural meditations and even fiction by Lewis, Tolkien or L’Engle — that can educate, train and nurture them on their path towards adult Christian formation.