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Sunday, May 3, 2020
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! all the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!” (vv. 1–2) by Reginald Heber
Hymn 1, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher in the nineteenth century, once clarified a common and harmful misconception about worship using the analogy of a drama. “When we come to worship God, we generally feel as though the preacher and other ministers are the performers, God is the subject of the performance, and we as the congregation are merely the audience, but this is a terrible misunderstanding of worship. Authentic Christian worship is just the opposite. We, the congregation, are the performers. The preachers and other ministers are the directors of the performance, and God is the audience.” The congregation has the most important and active role in worship. Worship is not about what we as a congregation passively receive but more about what we actively offer to God: our full heart, mind, and soul. We offer our talents and our whole lives to God in worship and throughout each day.
“Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee. Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity!” The opening verses of this popular hymn bring Kierkegaard’s words to life each time we sing them. By greeting and describing who God is for each of us, these words make clear that we the congregation are the performers addressing God, our audience: “Our song shall rise to thee.” It is fitting that this hymn is first in our Glory to God hymnal, establishing this right relationship with God from the beginning. Even the title of the hymnal, Glory to God, is a reminder of Kierkegaard’s analogy. The glory belongs to God, not to us.
“Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea; cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee, who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.” The second verse reminds us that when we worship God, we join with the angels in heaven and across all ages who praise God continuously. They live in God’s unending love; they are illumined and bathed in the perpetual light of God. In this life we strive to share in that love, that light. We can choose each day to make it more real for ourselves and for all those around us, until one day we will be made one with God again and know only love, only light.
Holy God, help me to love and worship you with my whole being, heart, mind, and soul. Let my whole life be devoted to you so that I may become one with you in love and light. Amen.
Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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