For the past three years our church has planned a hymn festival service to mark the closing of the choir season before the summer break. We are a medium-sized congregation (400 members) blessed with several instrumentalists. In addition to organ and piano, this year we were able to add two flutes, four violins, and five brass players.
Our pastor had chosen to preach from Psalms 104 and 148 as part of a series on the palms. His sermon called us to two actions—recognition and response. In Psalm 104 our eyes are trained on the wonders of all of God’s creation. In the sheer abundance and vitality of all that we see, we are invited to recognize the marvelous creative power of God. In and through all this, we are also invited to recognize God’s care. Finally we are invited to recognize God’s delight in all of his creation.
As Jonathan Edwards said, “Creation is designed to show forth [God’s] might, his wisdom, his goodness, . . . and happiness.” In Psalm 148, this recognition is crafted into a response of praise. We are invited to join all creation’s chorus in responding to God’s genius, goodness, and care.
For our service we chose familiar songs most people would know. The bulletin contained the words to every song. Page numbers from the hymnal were also printed for those who wished to sing harmony. Before the service the instrumentalists gathered for a rehearsal. They were given an outline of the service, listing all the songs and how each verse was to be accompanied. The service was able to proceed smoothly without pauses.
We chose a short litany drawn from Our World Belongs to God, a contemporary testimony (see box), to establish the theme of the service. Scripture readings (Psalms 104 and 148) were read responsively, interspersed with refrains (as found in Sing! A New Creation.)
Although this was billed as a springtime hymn festival, it could be used at any service throughout the year that focuses on God’s creative acts.
Organ Prelude: “Simple Gifts,” Shaker melody
Welcome and Call to Worship
Psalm of Praise
“Lord, Our Lord, Your Glorious Name” PsH 8, PH 163, RL 83, TH 114, TWC 319 (piano and organ; st. 2, children; st. 3, 4, unaccompanied; refrains, all; st. 5, descant led by choir and trumpet)
Declaration of Faith
As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world—
which some seek to control,
but which others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!
From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until his kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever.
Our world belongs to him!
God is King! Let the earth be glad!
Christ is Victor; his rule has begun. Hallelujah!
The Spirit is at work, renewing the creation.
Praise the Lord!
“We Plow the Fields and Scatter” PsH 456, PH 560, RL 17, TH 714 (organ and piano, adding brass on st. 3)
“The Trees of the Field” PsH 197, SFL 196, TWC 272 (sung twice, led by the Sunday school children, who learned the song with clapping)
Prayers of the People
Psalm 104 interspersed with refrain from “Send Us Your Spirit” SNC 163, 164 (piano, flute, and violin)
Hymn of Praise
“All Creatures of Our God and King” PsH 431, PH 455, RL 4, SFL 86, TH 115, TWC 356 (organ; st. 2, women; st. 3, men; “Alleluias,” all; st. 4, 5, brass added)
“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” PsH 457, SFL 198, TWC 518 (piano; st. 1-3, sung antiphonally, each side alternating phrases; st. 4, men; st. 5, women; st. 6, all)
Songs Led by Sunday School Children
“Hip Hip Hooray,” Mary Rice Hopkins (Big Steps 4 U, Maranatha! Music, 1988)
“This Is My Father’s World” PsH 436, PH 293, RL 14, SFL 95, TH 111, TWC 384
“All Things Bright and Beautiful” PsH 435, PH 267, RL 15, SFL 90, TH 120, TWC 57 (organ, piano, adding flutes on st. 2, 3, and on the refrains)
Psalm 148 with refrain “Let the Whole Creation Cry” SNC 31 (organ)
Sermon: All Creatures Great and Small
“Beautiful Savior” PsH 461 (organ, piano, flutes on descant, add brass on st. 4)
“Creator Spirit, By Whose Aid” PsH 425 (organ, piano, adding brass on st. 2, 3).
Our World Belongs to God is a contemporary testimony of faith available in the worship edition of the Psalter Hymnal (CRC Publications, 1987; 1-800-333-8300;www.FaithAliveResources.org).