re-Hymn: In the Garden (of Gethsemane)

In thinking about preaching this year on Good Friday, the idea came to me to create a minor-keyed arrangement of the classic hymn “In the Garden (I come the Garden Alone).”

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So often the music and key of a song can greatly impact the words and meaning. After all, “the medium IS the message” and the WAY we communicate deeply influences WHAT we are trying to communicate.*

In thinking about preaching this year on Good Friday, the idea came to me to create a minor-keyed arrangement of the classic hymn “In the Garden (I come the Garden Alone).” This much beloved (and yet also critiqued as being over sentimental or potentially romantic**) hymn from C. Austin Miles was composed in 1912 and made it into our United Methodist Hymnals soon thereafter.

This re-arranging of this hymn text is heavily influenced by re-imagining the text as written about the Garden of Gethsemane (in Matthew 26:36-46) instead of the resurrection garden encounter (in John 20:11-18) and is also influenced by Black Liberation theologian James Cone‘s God of the Oppressed. Placing this hymn tune’s normal major progression in G C D into and Em Am Bm minor progression and adapting the melody leave it with a haunting, appropriate sense of what it means to sing about being with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane that fateful night just before his arrest and subsequent crucifixion. Here is a rough version of the chords written out.

In the Garden (of Gethsemane) from joseph mcbrayer on Vimeo.

I’ll be singing and preaching more about this hymn at the Emory Office of Spiritual and Religious Life Good Friday service April 14th, 12noon at Cannon Chapel, Emory University.

___
Footnotes:

*Media theorist and author Professor Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is the Massage (New York: Bantam Books), 1967, 10.

**Choir master and hymnal editor Carlton R. Young, Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Abingdon Press), 1993, 432-433.

O Young and Fearless Prophet

O young and fearless Prophet, we need thy presence here,
amid our pride and glory to see thy face appear;
once more to hear thy challenge above our noisy day,
again to lead us forward along God’s holy way.

O Young and Fearless Prophet (Passion Chorale) from joseph mcbrayer on Vimeo.

Pastors, musicians, students, and friends, as we enter the season of Lent (a time of repentance and remembering our humanity)  I offer this timely hymn: “O Young and Fearless Prophet” (written in 1931) set to the Passion Chorale (1601 — O Sacred Head Now Wounded) for our Lenten Journey:

“O Young and Fearless Prophet” (text by S. Ralph Harlow, 1931) set to the tune of Passion Chorale (Hans L. Hassler, 1601, arr. Joseph McBrayer — .pdf below)

“O young and fearless Prophet of ancient Galilee,
thy life is still a summons to serve humanity;
to make our thoughts and actions less prone to please the crowd,
to stand with humble courage for truth with hearts uncowed.

We marvel at the purpose that held thee to thy course
while ever on the hilltop before thee loomed the cross;
thy steadfast face set forward where love and duty shone,
while we betray so quickly and leave thee there alone.

O help us stand unswerving against war’s bloody way,
where hate and lust and falsehood hold back Christ’s holy sway;
forbid false love of country that blinds us to his call,
who lifts above the nations the unity of all.

Stir up in us a protest against our greed for wealth,
while others starve and hunger and plead for work and health;
where homes with little children cry out for lack of bread,
who live their years sore burdened beneath a gloomy dread.

O young and fearless Prophet, we need thy presence here,
amid our pride and glory to see thy face appear;
once more to hear thy challenge above our noisy day,
again to lead us forward along God’s holy way.”


S. Ralph Harlow (1885-1972), a congregationalist and practitioner of the Social Gospel, wrote this hymn on the back of a menu in 1931 during the Great Depression*–the United Methodist hymnal committee didn’t include stanza 5 in either the 1935 or 1966 Hymnal edition as the editor told Harlow: “the church is not ready to sing that.” Harlow told him it wasn’t “as radical as the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55, which is sung in the Methodist service” and stanza 5 eventually made it into our 1989 hymnal.*

The epiphanal moment leading me to set this text to PASSION CHORALE came in during Lent of 2014 when the hymn text was an ideal fit for a worship series on Race and the Church, but the hymn tune in 13.13 13.13  was unfamiliar. I realized that any tune in 7.6 7.6 D could work and PASSION CHORALE fit the text and the occasion quite well serving as a prelude of the coming terminus of Lent in Good Friday when we most often sing “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”

Another stanza that didn’t make it is below — may we live into this stanza and the call heard in this hymn from our “Young and Fearless Prophet.”

“Create in us the splendor that dawns when hearts are kind.
That knows not race or color as boundaries of the mind;
That learns to value beauty, in heart, or brain, or soul,
And longs to bind God’s children into one perfect whole.”

*source: Carlton R. Young, Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1993, pages 537-538.

here is a chord sheet of my arrangement: o-young-and-fearless-prophet-passion-chorale

Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy)

Lent is one of those seasons where the phrase “Lord Have Mercy” may get a good bit of usage in worship…

As we move into the season of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar (a season of preparation, reflection, and spiritual growth) it is good for us to look to Jesus’ time spent in the wilderness being tempted (Matthew 4:1-11) and times in our own lives where things have been difficult. The point of Lent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent) for those who observe it is not necessarily to “give something up” for 40 something days, but perhaps to take on a spiritual practice that helps us realize our need for God’s grace. Many people take time to give to the poor, volunteer, pray, and reflect upon their priorities in life.

Liturgically speaking, Lent leads up to Holy Week where Jesus will suffer and die for the sins of all people–and then Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus. BUT, many people seem to get ahead of themselves and go directly to Easter–Lent is a time to literally “sit in the ashes” and is an appropriate time to contemplate the difficulties in our lives and the lives of others. Lent is not a time of introspection and evaluation to the point of “analysis paralysis” or the loss of self worth, but rather it is a time for reflection and spiritual growth.

The phrase “Lord Have Mercy” now, as in ancient times, often expresses all that we can really say in difficult seasons and situations in life. Lent is one of those seasons where the phrase “Lord Have Mercy” may get a good bit of usage in worship. The song “Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy)” comes from an ancient tradition of sung prayer as found in Psalms, Isaiah, and in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, & Luke. The Ancient Greek words “kyrie eleison” mean “Lord have mercy” and were used as a prayer in times when we don’t know what to say–times when we can only say “Lord, have mercy.”

This is my interpretation of the Kyrie and its debut performance was in February 2011 at “The Composes Concert” sponsored by Sacred Artistry and the Office of Religious Life at Emory University.

“Lord have mercy, have mercy on me
help me be the things you want me to be
help me see the things you want me to see
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy on me”

words and music copyright by Joseph McBrayer 2010

O Sacred Head

a classic Lenten hymn used frequently during Holy Week

This passion hymn details the crucifixion story of Jesus and focus on the head of Christ. The words for this medieval hymn come from an anonymous 11th/12th century latin text that is thought to be written either by Bernard of Clairvaux or (more likely) Arnulf of Louvain. The text for O Sacred Head is from the last in a cycle of poems written about the wounds of Christ during the crucifixion (feet, knees, hands, sides, breast, heart, and head).* The hymn’s text pulls from images of the crucifixion as found in Matt 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20, & John 19:1-5 where a crown of thorns is fashioned and placed on the head of Jesus by the guards who are beating and mocking him. It is a classic Lenten hymn and is used frequently on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday during Holy Week.

The hymn tune comes from Hans L Hassler (1601) and the harmony is by J.S. Bach and comes from his St. Matthew Passion, 1729. However, the tune and text were first matched together by Lutheran musician Johann Crüger in 1656. It later was included in several hymn collections and made its way into western Christianity’s hymnody.*

In the recorded version below I take some license with the musical arrangement and with the meter of the phrasing in this wonderful and ancient hymn of the western church. It can be found in the UMHymnal #286.

“O Sacred Head” chords

(*Many of the notes here are from a the resources and writings of a great United Methodist professor and theologian of church music, Carlton R. Young (editor of United Methodist Hymnal/Companion to the UM Hymnal) and from Diana Sanchez’s introductions to Hymns of the United Methodist Hymnal.)

I Want Jesus to Walk with Me

a version my good friend Rev. Michael A. Hunt and I worked up in Spring of 2009

This is a version my good friend Rev. Michael A. Hunt and I worked up for a worship service at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Spring of 2009. Michael is an excellent and accomplished singer and should be singing instead of me, but he is now in Iowa in work/ministry at Grinnell College. (you can read his blog here)

This song is an African American Spiritual and has deep roots in the black church tradition. As are many spirituals, this song is a prayer–but, as Michael puts it, it is not a prayer of someone who doesn’t think that Jesus is there, but it is a song that helps us to remember and have reaffirmed that fact that Jesus IS with us.

In worship settings it can be used for congregational song or for use as a special music or solo/duet. In this version, the guitar is tuned a 1/2 step down (Eflat) for a more blues-like sound (it can go another whole step down if needed/desired).

It is a suitable song and prayer for the liturgical season of Lent (40 days before Easter) in the Church year and is a fitting song to sing when you’re going through the trials and troubles of life.

I want Jesus to walk with me lyrics/chords (guitar tuned a half step down to Eflat)