I have gathered the testimonies of many Christians that I hope will inspire and console you. I hope I can be a conduit for the testimonies of some heroes of our faith. The first of these is J. S. Bach, who signed each of his works with the letters S.D.G. : Soli Deo Gloria: only to God be the glory.
This work is "Jesu, Joy Of Our Desiring". I chose the St. Louis Brass Quintet version of Bach's melody because it is an ensemble. I hope Nelson and Mark and others with ties to St. Louis will appreciate their delicate blending. I have also added words that compare our PACE class to a musical ensemble.
Our service tonight is a Wesleyan Covenant Service, so let us hear how we might understand what a covenant is, and what kind of covenant we have now. OT Lesson read by Rosemary Ellis
One of the most famous phrases coming from the Middle Ages is "Ubi Caritas, Deus ibi est", "where love is, God is". It has been used for hundreds of years as a chant, an anthem and a song. In Russian, it is also the title of a short story by Count Leo Tolstoy. We will now hear hear an anthem version of Ubi Caritas.
But Ubi Caritas is not just an observation that we make of a kindness done by others. It is an imperative for us to be God's love at work in our own personal world. Listen to how Jesus talks to Peter about the cost of discipleship: NT Lesson read by Mark England
People of our age think of all Russians as Communist atheists. But Count Leo Tolstoy, famous author of "War and Peace", was a devout Christian. He wrote a short story he titled "Where Love Is, God Is". Its three visitations are a clear parallel of Mt 25 "When did we see thee?", and is often titled "Martin the Cobbler" in English. Tolstoy's story has been abridged into a short poem, which we will now hear read by another Christian, Johnny Cash, as "The Christmas Guest".
I am indebted to those in our class who went to the Holy Land and showed us where Jesus walked, and also to Clyde Rupert, whose "Chronological Jesus" class helped me to put these photos in order.
Even though we won't hear you, I hope that you will read this Covenant Prayer out loud. It is a challenging prayer, and you may not feel you are ready for such a commitment. As we went through our Advent study this last month, I was struck by the radical nature of God's claim on my life. I have always feared that God would send me to Africa, as He sent Albert Schweitzer. But it is becoming clear to me that God is calling me right here and right now. Read with me now, as you are able. The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer
Another hero of the Christian faith for me is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As one of the few Christians who sought to overthrow Adolph Hitler, he was imprisoned and killed in a concentration camp. In late 1944, even his guards believed that the war would soon be over. Bonhoeffer wrote this poem to his fiance, asking her to pass it on to his family, as his hope for the New Year. As you can see in this English translation, his poem was a New Year's Eve greeting card: "Thus will I spend with You these final hours and then together enter a new year". I am honored to spend these final hours of 2020 with you, and together to enter 2021.
Here is "Von Guten Maechten" or "By Gentle Powers" as sung in English by the songwriter Siegfried Fietz.
I would like to conclude this service with the "Benedictus" by Welsh composer Sir Karl Jenkins, sung by Voces8. The text is from another Latin phrase that occurs in hundreds of books and music: Hosanna in excelsis! Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini : Hosanna in the highest! Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord. May you be one, who comes in the name of the Lord.
Now I will leave you with my personal wish of Joy for you in the New Year.