Jan 14, 2018 • 11:00 am

The Rev. Dr. Cleophus J. LaRue Jr., guest preacher.


Second Sunday after Epiphany

Today, as we observe the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, we welcome our guest preacher, the Rev. Dr. Cleophus J. LaRue, Jr. Dr. LaRue is the Francis Landey Patton Professor of Homiletics at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Please note that there is no 9:30 am service today.

Sermon: "Stressed But Blessed"

Text: 1 Kings 17; Matthew 17:14-21

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” —1 Kings 17

When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” —Matthew 17:14-21


Gospel Prelude on “Jesus Loves Me” • William Bolcom (b. 1938)
I Believe This Is Jesus • Traditional Spiritual, arr. Undine Smith Moore (1904–1989)
"Nobody Knows" and "Steal Away" from A Child of Our Time • Traditional Spirituals, arr. Michael Tippett (1905–1998)
Elijah Rock • Traditional Spiritual, arr. Moses Hogan (1957–2003)
Gospel Prelude on “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” • William Bolcom

Worship Notes  

In commemoration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. national day, the choral music this morning features settings of African American spirituals by some of the foremost composers in the genre. 

Undine Smith Moore was a notable and prolific female African American composer of the 20th century. Known as the “Dean of Black Women Composers,” Moore studied composition at Fisk University and The Juilliard School, from which she graduated cum laude in 1926. While her list of compositions include works for piano and other instrumental ensembles, Moore is more widely known today for her choral works. Scenes from the Life of a Martyr, a 16-part oratorio on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was premiered at Carnegie Hall and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Her joyous setting of "I Believe This Is Jesus," heard this morning, is a wonderful example of her distinctive style.

The Offertory Anthem, Elijah Rock, is one of the most famous arrangements by the great Moses Hogan, one of America’s foremost composers of African American spirituals. Hogan’s inimitable settings are sung and beloved by choirs and audiences throughout the world, and are remarkable for stylishly bridging the gap between traditional spirituals and classical choral ensembles. Although Hogan was only 45 when he passed away from a brain tumor in 2003, his legacy lives on through his many compositions and arrangements as one of the most creative and influential figures in 20th-century American choral music.

The Prelude and Postlude are solo organ settings of the traditional gospel hymns “Jesus Loves Me” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” by the American composer, William Bolcom. Bolcom wrote 12 of these pieces, all of which contain a wide range of musical expression—from the beautifully sublime, to the surprising and downright gritty! 

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