April 14 – Where the Easter Music Buck Stops

You would think they could make an exception.

We Presbyterians are suspicious of too much power. We know too much power is a dangerous thing. We worry, especially, about pastors with too much power. We limit what a pastor can do without consulting with or having approval from the elders. And for the sake of a balance of power, we tell the elders there are a few thing a pastor can do without approval from the elders.  All in all, it is a good system.

But you would think they could make an exception.

Our PCUSA Book of Order gives the power to pick hymns to the pastor alone:

The teaching elder as pastor has certain responsibilities which are not subject to the authority of the session. In a particular service of worship the pastor is responsible for

  • the selection of Scripture lessons to be read,
  • the preparation and preaching of the sermon or exposition of the Word,
  • the prayers…prepared for the use of the people in worship,
  • the music to be sung.

Our friends at the EPC put it more simply:

  • The Pastor has final authority over all parts of the service, including the music.

So, here I am without a musical bone in my body, given all this power over the selection of hymns for worship.

Maybe they should have made an exception to the rule, but they did not. I pick the hymns we sing at LPC.

Of course, despite not a musical bone in my body, I love psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. I take my responsibility seriously and try to exercise my power wisely.

The old Presbyterian Hymnal we use at LPC has about 20 hymns in the Easter section, a half dozen of which a typical congregation wants to sing. The new Presbyterian hymnal has a few more, including a silly one about butterflies and daffodils. Don’t worry; I’ll exercise my power wisely if we ever buy the new hymnal.

All of this is to say that I have picked the hymns we’ll sing on Sunday. At the 9:45 service we will begin with Charles Wesley’s “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today,” continue with the new to the now old hymnal “Alleluia! Alleluia! Give Thanks,” add “The Day of Resurrection” from Saint John of Damascus in the 8th Century, and then, right before Handel’s “Hallelujah!” chorus, we will sing “Thine is the Glory” set to Handel’s “Judas Maccabeus.” Brass and bells will join the organ in helping us sing.

It has been a while since we sang “Thine Is the Glory” on an Easter Sunday.

The words to “Thine Is the Glory” were originally written in French and translated into English about a hundred years ago. It always has been sung to “Judas Maccabeus.”

The Risen Jesus of “Thine Is the Glory” is, to be certain, an Easter Jesus, but not necessarily the Jesus who comforts a distraught Mary or causes the hearts of the Emmaus pilgrims to burn.  He is, by text quoted, a 1 Corinthians 15 Jesus – not in any way that there is more than one Jesus in the pages of Scripture:

Thine is the glory, Risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won.
Angels in bright raiment Rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes Where Thy body lay.

Lo! Jesus meets us, Risen from the tomb;
Lovingly He greets us, Scatters fear and gloom.
Let the church with gladness Hymns of triumph sing,
For the Lord now liveth; Death hath lost its sting.

No more we doubt Thee, Glorious Prince of life!
Life is nought without Thee; Aid us in our strife.
Make us more than conquerors Through They deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan To Thy home above.

Thine is the glory, Risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won.

Like Ruben’s masterpiece (above and below), “Thine is the Glory” reminds us that the Risen Jesus has defeated death. That the victory is not just for then and there, but is endless and is for you and me.

Make us more than conquerors Through They deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan To Thy home above.

Join us Sunday. Sing with us. I think I have exercised my sole authority well.