Pastor Mike preached from Psalm 31: A Psalm in Times of Distress. This made choosing the hymns easy. We observed the Lord’s Supper. This made planning the service easy. After a wonderful TCA Open House on Friday night and a great All Staff Training workshop on Saturday, there was a little bit of platform set-up to be ready for Sunday morning. Not easy. I will be so glad to get my “stage crew” back in a few weeks! Several IBCS students volunteer as one of their ministries to move chairs, stands, and pianos to make sure the platform is ready to go on Sunday morning.
We began our service on Sunday morning by singing three distinct styles of music found in our hymnal: “The Solid Rock” is a gospel song, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is a heritage hymn; and “You Are My Fortress” is a modern chorus. But all three musical styles preached the same Biblical message from the first couple verses of Psalm 31—
“Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress”
Before his pastoral prayer, Pastor Mike told a bit of history of Martin Luther who wrote “A Mighty Fortress.” Then choir sang “Depth of Mercy,” a sonnet by Charles Wesley. Compared to say, Isaac Watts, who wrote hymns in basically 3 meters, Wesley wrote in a wide variety of poetic styles and meters. Some sources say more than 45 different poetic meters! His marvelous meditation on Christ’s mercy on fallen sinners is a perfect song for a day in which we observe the Lord’s Supper.
As the choir and orchestra were leaving the platform to find their seats, we sang “Rock of Ages.” I mentioned to the congregation that while both songs are about Christ’s all-sufficient sacrifice for us, the hymn was born of controversy. Toplady felt that the Welsey brothers didn’t put enough emphasis in their ministry on our dependency on Christ’s working in our lives, so he wrote “Thou must save, and Thou alone.” It is both ironic and instructive that we sang both hymns back-to-back in our service yesterday.
Our Lord’s Supper music was provided by the Christensen family. Beth sang “The Old Rugged Cross” while her daughter Grace played a harmony part on the violin and daughter Faith provided a supportive, gentle bass on her tuba. As the juice was distributed, Grace played “It is Well” accompanied by her mother on the piano. It is one of the only settings of that hymn that I know that ends triumphantly. Every setting that I know of builds to the thrilling last stanza, but then ends quietly.
Faith Christensen played “Amazing Grace” on her tuba for the offertory. No one thinks of the tuba as a melody instrument. But she played with such a lovely, mellow tone that the congregation was able to focus on the comforting text: “How sweet the sound!”