The Rev. Dr. Nora Tubbs Tisdale, preaching.
Our guest preacher this morning is the Rev. Dr. Nora Tubbs Tisdale, Clement-Muehl Professor of Homiletics at Yale Divinity School. Our sermon series, For the Bible Tells Me So, focused on FAPC's favorite passages from Scripture, continues.
Sermon: "A Psalm for All Seasons"
Text: Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
Sonata no. 1 in F minor: Allegro • Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)
Lass dich nur nichts nicht dauren (“Let Nothing Ever Grieve Thee”) • Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
Text: Paul Flemming (1609–1640)
He, watching over Israel, from Elijah • Felix Mendelssohn
Text: Psalm 121:4 and Psalm 138:7
Ave Verum Corpus • W. A. Mozart
Text: attrib. Pope Innocent VI (1282 or 1295–1362)
Sonata no. 1 in F minor: Allegro assai vivace • Felix Mendelssohn
Brahms composed this morning’s Anthem in 1856 when he was all of 23 years old. Lass dich nur nichts nicht dauren (also known as Geistliches Lied, or “Sacred Song”) is a deeply personal and reflective piece for choir and organ. The vocal lines unfold in a double canon (led by the sopranos and tenors) which, by Brahms’ time, would have been considered rather old-fashioned, an academic compositional technique harkening back to the music of J.S. Bach and the Renaissance masters before him. In the gifted hands of Brahms, however, this piece is anything but a mere contrapuntal exercise—the relatively conservative, stepwise entrance of each line gives way to plaintive and distinctly Romantic downward leaps of tritones, sixths and octaves in each voice, creating a spare soundscape of tremendous expressivity. The inspired reversal of the vocal entrances for the closing “Amen” (beginning with the basses and the altos) sets the stage for one of the most beautiful codas in all the Romantic choral repertoire.
The Offertory Anthem is a chorus from Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah, an English-language oratorio written in 1846 for a music festival in Birmingham, England. Like the Brahms, this piece was composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn’s Baroque predecessors Bach and Handel, whose music he loved, but with distinctly Romantic innovations. In 1829, Mendelssohn had organized the first performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion since the composer’s death and was instrumental in bringing this and other Bach works to widespread popularity. Elijah depicts various events in the life of the Biblical prophet, with texts drawn from the books 1 and 2 Kings. “He, watching over Israel” is one of the most well-known and frequently performed choruses from this beloved oratorio.
The Communion Anthem is Mozart’s peerless setting of Ave verum corpus. Composed in 1791, Mozart’s motet is a setting of a 14th-century Latin Eucharistic hymn, written to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi at the parish of Baden bei Wien, near Vienna. Just 46 measures in length, Ave verum is a stunning exercise is musical concision, and its masterful construction has ensured it a beloved place in the standard choral repertoire since its premiere.