The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston, preaching.
The Lenten Sermon Series, That Love May Overflow: Sifting the Real from the Fake in Life and Faith, continues.
Sermon: "What Do We Know... About Reason?"
Text: Proverbs 30:1-4; Philippians 1:9-11
The words of Agur son of Jakeh. An oracle.
Thus says the man: I am weary, O God,
I am weary, O God. How can I prevail?
Surely I am too stupid to be human;
I do not have human understanding.
I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the holy ones.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of the hand?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is the person’s name?
And what is the name of the person’s child?
Surely you know! –Proverbs 30:1-4
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. —Philippians 1:9-11
Chorale no. 3 in A minor • César Franck (1822–1890)
The Call • Kenneth Jennings (b. 1925)
Bring us, O Lord God • William H. Harris (1883–1973)
Text by John Donne (1572–1631)
Pièce héroïque • César Franck
The Anthem is a beautiful setting of the famous poem "The Call," by the English poet and cleric George Herbert. Herbert wrote devotional verse throughout his life, but only after his death in 1633 were his poems published. Referring to his poetry in the ancient tradition as "song," Herbert used simple and common words, conversational speech rhythms, musical imagery, and witty, unexpected metaphors. His titles are short, sometimes direct, sometimes enigmatic, such as "Discipline," "Prayer" and "The Pulley." In his poetry, Herbert explores his vision of Christian life, "a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul." Today, critics consider Herbert to be (as one wrote) "one of the purest and most ravishing of English poets." This morning's setting is by Kenneth Jennings, who was for many years the conductor of the St. Olaf Choir and professor emeritus of St. Olaf College.
The Offertory Anthem is one of several famous pieces for double choir composed by the great English choral composer William Harris. Harris was professor of organ and harmony at the Royal College of Music from 1921 until 1955; he also became organist at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, in 1933 and directed the music for the coronation ceremony of King George VI in 1937, as well as for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. Bring us, O Lord God was composed rather late in Harris' career, in 1959. Scored for double choir a cappella, the piece is a beautiful setting of a religious poem by John Donne. Harris' musical language is evocative and spacious, and together with Donne's mystical text, paints a radiant picture of heaven. The piece buildsto a grand, resplendent climax on the words, 'World without end,' but the most intimate and reflective music is saved for the transcendental concluding 'Amens.'
The organ music was composed by the great French organist and composer César Franck, organist at the church of Ste. Clotilde in Paris for over 30 years beginning in 1838. Toward the end of his life, Franck wrote three major organ works, his masterpieces for the instrument, which he called chorales. This morning's Prelude, Chorale no. 3 in A minor, is one of Franck's most dramatic pieces. It opens with an arresting toccata figuration inspired by Bach's Prelude in A minor, BWV 543, which Franck quickly contrasts with a lyrical, hymn-like theme. The middle section of the piece features one of the most beautiful Romantic melodies in the organ repertoire, which is paired powerfully with the opening toccata figuration to bring the piece toa thrilling close.
Pièce héroïque (ìHeroic Pieceî) was written just over a decade before the Chorales. The final piece in a set of three, the Trois piéces were composed in 1878 to inaugurate the new organ at the Trocadero in Paris. Like the Chorale in A minor, it is also composed in three main sections—an opening section with march-like accompaniment of two major themes gives way to a soft, lyrical section in the middle. The exhilarating buildup to the finale reintroduces the themesfrom the opening, and the piece closes with a dramatic fortissimo statement of the middle lyrical section on the full organ.