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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Today’s Hymn            

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might:
thy justice, like mountains high soaring above;
thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life thou givest, to both great and small.
In all life thou livest, the true life of all.
We blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree,
then wither and perish; but naught changeth thee.

Thou reignest in glory; thou dwellest in light.
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight.
All praise we would render; O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!

Walter Chalmers Smith’s “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” (tune: St. Denio)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

Sometimes while singing the words of a beloved hymn they make me think of a related story such as . . .

“Then wither and perish” . . . On the 2013 music mission trip to Havana, Cuba, Hector Mendez, the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church there, told our group about the struggle churches had, especially during the 1980s, to remain open in a country that was officially atheistic. He said that every Sunday he would open the doors of his church built for 1,000 people and only one elderly woman would enter for worship. Anyone who wanted a job did not dare to go to church, and it was this way across the country. The church had withered and quite nearly perished, and it was only the elderly women who did not care what the government said who kept it open. Pastor Mendez said there were Sundays when he wondered why he should even prepare a sermon or open the doors, and yet he did.

“But naught changeth thee” . . . While the churches were struggling to remain open, seeds for their rebirth were being planted by the same government, because the government was teaching everyone how to sing and play instruments. In recent years, as the Cuban government has become slightly more tolerant of churches and religion, people come to church thrilled to sing together, play instruments, and use the musical training provided for them by the Cuban government. The churches that struggled to stay open now have such vibrant and enthusiastic worship because everyone loves to sing together. Because the churches persevered in the face of struggle, they now shine as beacons of light. Indeed, First Presbyterian Church in Havana has borrowed the Fourth Church motto and calls itself “A Light in the City.”

Lord, thank you for always being present, working through us in ways we may not know or understand. Amen.

Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music

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