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I Am--The Sayings of Jesus: A festival of hymns

This service was prepared by Kenneth D. Powell and David Tiedman, pastor and music director respectively of Pilgrim Church (United Church of Christ), Sherborn, Massachusetts. Powell composed the prayers and Tiedman the musical arrangements, some of which are included here. Since the songs come from different sources, the printed program for the service includes photocopies of all hymns, text, and music. (Copies of the original printed program, including David Tiedman's descants and handbell arrangements, are available—see inside front cover for order information.) For those who may wish to explore alternative hymns, see the hymn suggestions in the service planning series for Lent and Holy Week, also entitled '"I AM'—The Sayings of Jesus" on pages 3-11 of this issue.

THE SERVICE

Gathering and Greeting

Prelude: "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" Raymond Haan

Welcome and Introduction

The theme of today's hymn festival service is the person and work of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, John's gospel includes the "I am" statements of Jesus—statements that declare who Christ is. Seven of these images or pictures of Christ form the basis of today's service. For each "I AM" image we will hear a relevant portion of Scripture, sing a hymn that features that image, offer a prayer, and conclude with a common musical response.

The hymns selected for this hymn festival include familiar texts by Charles Wesley, William Williams, Anna Waring, and others, as well as newer texts by Fred Pratt Green and Brian Wren. The tunes originate from Wales (CUM RHONDA, HYFRYDOL), Ireland (ST. COLUMBA), Finland (nyland), England (sandon, HANOVER, the CALL, love unknown), and France (CHRISTE sanctorum). The prayer response "Lord Jesus Christ, be present now" is sung to the tune TALLIS CANON (Pilgrim Hymnal 57).

Opening Hymn: "Ye Servants of God" HANOVER PsH 477, PH 477, RL 598, TH 165

Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788; Tune: William Croft, 1678-1727

stanza 1: all in unison
stanza 2: all in harmony
stanza 3: choir only
stanza 4: all in unison
See descant and bell arrangement on page 30.

I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE

Scripture:-John 6:25-35

Hymn: "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" CWM
RHONDA FsH 543, PH 281, RL 598, TH 50

Text: William Williams, 1717-179, tr. Peter Williams, 1727-1796; Tune: John Hughes, 1873-1932

stanza 1: men in unison; women in unison join at "Bread of heaven"
stanza 2: choir only
stanza 3: all in unison

Prayer

O Jesus, Bread of Life, we remember how often you ate meals with others: two fish and five loaves on a hillside, at a wedding feast in Cana, at home with Mary and Martha, in an upper room with the twelve, on the Galilean beach over a charcoal fire. You ate with others, and every meal was sacred.

We confess to you now our hunger for bread and for more than bread. The food we eat so seldom satisfies our real longings. We pray, give us your bread, our daily bread, true bread from heaven. And let the bread we have from you be shared by us with hungry bodies and souls beyond the reach of our own cupboards.

O Jesus, let everything that we eat remind us of our human hungers and of your divine gifts, which sustain us. Let every occasion of the breaking of bread be as fellowship with you, who once took bread, giving thanks, broke, and shared it with the world. Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven, feed us till we and all want no more. Amen.

[All sing the following to TALUS CANON. This same hymn stanza concludes each section of the service.]

Lord Jesus Christ, be present now,
our hearts in true devotion bow.
Thy Spirit send with grace divine,
and let thy truth within us shine.

I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

Scripture: John 1:1-9; 8:12

Hymn: "Christ Is the World's Light" CHRISTE
SANCTORUM United Methodist Hymnal 188

Text: Fred Pratt Green, b. 1903; Tune: Paris Antiphoner, 1681

stanza 1: all in unison
stanza 2: women in unison
stanza 3: men in unison
stanza 4: all in unison

Prayer

O Jesus, Light of the World, come into the dark places of this earth. You bring a light from God which only you can shed.

Light Eternal, your light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. We bring to you the darkness of our world in war, starvation, cruelty, and exploitation. We bring to you the darkness of our earth, damaged and defaced by pollution. We bring to you the darkness of our nation, beset with conflict of race and class, religion and politics. We bring to you the darkness of our relationships, people not looking, not speaking, not listening, not forgiving. We bring to you the darkness of our own souls, hidden closets we have not visited or cleaned out for years.

O Jesus, Light of the World, be a morningstar above for us, a radiance within, the shining all around that lets us live in love. Only then shall we be reflectors of your brightness and give glory to God in heaven. Amen.

[All sing: Lord Jesus Christ, be present now ... ]

I AM THE DOOR OF THE SHEEP

Scripture: John 10:1-10

Hymn: "In Heavenly Love Abiding" NYLAND Pilgrim Hymnal 343

Text: Anna L. Waring, 1823-1910; Tune: Finnish, harm. David Evans, 1874-1948

stanza 1: all in unison
stanza 2: women in unison
stanza 3: all in harmony

Prayer

O Jesus, Door to God, Gate of Heaven, we pray to you. You are the open way for us to enter the green and greater pasture. Why is it so hard for us to open the door and walk through? Are we afraid of stepping forward? Of going out into a larger future? Do we fear for safety and so long for security that we will not venture beyond our comfortable fold?

You promise us a more abundant life...you are the way, the door. You assure us of your presence in every place, to walk beside us....

Now it is our choice, each one... to go forth through that door to a new world unknown. Can we trust? Will we walk? We take comfort knowing that the door is you, Jesus, our friend and strength. Amen.

[All sing: Lord Jesus Christ, be present now ... ]

I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Scripture: John 10:11-18

Hymn: "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" ST. COLUMBA PH 171, RL 266, 267, TH 184

Text: Psalm 23, para. Henry W. Baker, 1821-1877;

Tune: IRISH

stanza 1: all in harmony
stanza 2: women in unison
stanza 3: all in harmony
stanza 4: choir only
stanza 5: men in unison
stanza 6: all in unison

Prayer

O Jesus, Good Shepherd, we are your sheep. When we are lost, you come searching for us. When we are hungry, you feed us, body and blood. When we are frenzied or exhausted, you lead us beside still waters to restore our soul. When we walk in dark or dangerous ways, you lead us in paths of righteousness.

Good Shepherd Jesus, you even lay down your life for us, in the way you taught and touched, forgave and healed; in the way you died and live and love us always.

We pray, in your image, to grow from just being sheep to becoming shepherds ourselves, to take responsibility for others' safety.... to learn how to be helpful in another's sorrow or stress— to offer food to the hungry, strength to the weak, a joyful story to the weary traveler.

Jesus, show us how to be good shepherds. It is not enough that we stay sheep. Amen.

[All sing: Lord Jesus Christ, be present now ... ]

I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE

Scripture: John 11:1-27

Hymn: "When Grief Is Raw" SANDON

Text: Brian Wren, b. 1936, alt.; Tune: Charles H. Purday, 1799-1885

stanza 1: all in harmony
stanza 2: men in unison
stanza 3: choir only
stanza 4: all in unison

See text in sidebar.

Prayer

O Jesus, Resurrection and the Life, Lazarus is dead. The Lazarus of old ways that no longer work. The Lazarus of people we haven't talked to in years.

Lazarus is dead. An image we had of ourselves that is now chipped or badly broken. The spirit of a child who sees no future beyond drugs and violence. An old person, waiting for hope to arise in her soul.

Lazarus is dead. Some church which has lost its spirit and reason for being. A tree that will not show buds this spring. That man afraid to sing, to weep, not having heard his own voice in years. That old part of the city where no one wants to invest. That tiny ethnic group no one wants to listen to.

Lazarus is dead.

And you, Jesus, Resunection and the Life, you must come. Amen.

[All sing: Lord Jesus Christ, be present now ... ]

I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE

Scripture: John 14:1-7

Hymn: "Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life" THE CALL United Methodist Hymnal 164

Text: George Herbert, 1593-1632; Tune: Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958

stanza 1: all
stanza 2: women
stanza 3: all

See descant and bell arrangement on this page.

Prayer

O Jesus, you are the Way, the Truth, the Life.

God's way to us, our way to God.
God's truth for our world about our lives, God's life, which brings our living alive.

Seeing you, listening to you, knowing you, following you joins us to God.

We come through you to God, who is to us as a Father and as a Mother, all-loving Creator.

Jesus, whichever rutted road we choose to travel in this world, be our way, we pray. Whichever partial version of the truth we choose to accept and voice as our viewpoint, be our truth, we ask. Whichever style of life we choose to live out with our time and money and skills and values, be our life, we pray.

Be our way, our truth, our life, in God. Amen.

[All sing: Lord Jesus Christ, be present now...]

I AM THE TRUE VINE

Scripture: John 15:1-11

Hymn: "I Am the Holy Vine" LOVE UNKNOWN PsH 220

Text: John 15:1-5, vers. James Quinn, 1969; Tune: John Ireland, 1918

stanza 1: choir in unison
stanza 2: choir in harmony
stanza 3: all in unison

Prayer

O Jesus, True Vine, our Vine, Tree of Life—we are attached to you: your rigor, your feeding, your rootage in God. We grow with you, or we die without you. Whatever fruit our lives might bear comes from our closeness with you.

So prune us and purge us, we pray, as best for our growth and health. Remove from our lives dead branches, dry stumps, places of emptiness.

And nourish by your love every part of us that yet holds potential for good growth. Make us more sane and simple by the indwelling of your Holy Spirit. Strengthen us to follow your commandments and to abide in your love. Let your joy be in us, and our joy complete. Amen.

[All sing: Lord fesus Christ, be present now...]

Closing Prayer

O Jesus, you once asked your disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" And even today you ask us again and again that same question, "Who do you say that I am?"

What name shall we give you? What image, what title, what identity? Who are you to me, to us? Shall we call you light or bread from God? Are you God's first flower or something strong like rock or tree?

Jesus, gentle as a descending dove, or with eye-piercing truth, you shepherd us, you raise us, you find us in our most needy neighbor.

Are you a crowned king, a humble servant, or both? Do you save us as savior, heal us as physician, free us as liberator? Shall we call you Word of God, Morning Star, or Love Divine?

Again and again, we must give you our answer, O Jesus. With wonder, in mystery, from faith mixed with doubt, we answer as we can, we follow one step at a time, we open to larger Truth, we sing answers we cannot yet speak.

O Jesus, joy of heaven, to earth come down, visit us with your salvation, and enter every trembling heart. Amen.

Closing Hymn: "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"
HYFRYDOL PsH 568, PH 376, RL 464, TH 529

Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788, alt.; Tune: Rowland H. Prichard, 1811-1887

stanza 1: all in unison
stanza 2: women in unison
stanza 3: men in unison
stanza 4: all in unison

See descant and bell arrangement on page 32.

Benediction

Postlude: Prelude on "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" Ralph Vaughan Williams

Excerpt
"WHEN GRIEF IS RAW"

When grief is raw and music goes unheard
and thought is numb,
we have no polished phrases to recite.
In Christ we come
to hear the old familiar words:
"I am the resurrection. I am life."

God, give us time for gratitude and tears,
and make us free
to grieve, remember, honor, and delight.
Let love be strong
to bear regrets and banish fears:
"I am the resurrection. I am life."

The height and breadth of all that love prepares
soar out of time
beyond our speculation and our sight.
The cross remains
to ground the promise that it bears:
"I am the resurrection. I am life."

All shall be judged, the greatest and the least,
and all be loved,
till every hurt is healed, all wrong set right.
In bread and wine
we taste the great homecoming feast
and in the midst of death we are in life.

Text: Brian Wren, © 1983 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. For permission to reproduce this text, use your CCLI or LiscenSing license or contact the publisher at (800) 323-1049.