NOTEworthy: Give Peace in Our Time – Ethan McGrath

Before you dive in this week, know that this week’s Noteworthy is a reprint of last week’s column. Moving forward, the goal of these musings will be to connect you with the music being presented in the Sunday morning Offertory. Though it might change when in the week you read this column, hopefully this new format informs and edifies how the Offertory anthem affects your worship experience.

This week’s anthem is one of those lovely pieces that encapsulates a number of cultures all at once. The music was written by a native Tennessean, Ethan McGrath, who traveled all the way to Cambridge for his musical studies. This prayer comes from the Book of Common Prayer, and the styling of this piece evokes jazz, soul, and songs of the Civil Rights movement like “We Shall Overcome.” The choir has worked hard to dig into the bold, outright singing that this music requires – something that looks and feels very different from much of the classical anthems we love to present.

As I read this week’s text from Mark 10:17-31, I have to admit I find Jesus’ challenge to be a bit confusing. In the span of a few verses, Christ says to sell everything and follow Him and that it is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than a camel go through the eye of a needle. Then, when met with confusion (and probably a bit of terror!), He seems to brush it off with a platitude of  “with God all things are possible.” He closes the section with promising a hundredfold return on the investment of following Him (and persecutions).

It can be a confusing passage, to be sure. Often, Jesus’ words can feel that way. The hope in this week’s anthem is to remind us that, when the will and words of God seem unclear, work towards Peace will rarely be in the wrong direction. Give Peace in Our Time, O Lord.

Andy Eaton
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church

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