218

To Your Unequaled Strength (Psalm 21)

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The confessions make it clear that the ascension of Christ opened the door to the rule of his kingdom. This fact is comforting to those who love him and is a fearful threat to those who despise him. The response therefore is praise and adoration from people of faith, and resistance from those who reject him.

 

Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 27 affirms “All authority, glory and sovereign power are given to him,” and reaffirms it in paragraph 43: “Jesus Christ rules over all.”

 

Consider the clear affirmation made in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 19, Question and Answer 50: “Christ ascended to heaven to show there that he is the head of his church, the one through whom the Father rules all things.”

 
It is no wonder that those who despise him join together to conspire against him, for Christ’s aim as Lord is to “destroy the devil’s work…every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy word” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 48, Question and Answer 123).

218

To Your Unequaled Strength (Psalm 21)

Call to Worship

Ascended and reigning Christ,
help all of us who struggle to worship you as Lord
perceive the beauty and glory of your sovereign rule.
Help all of us who struggle to worship you as heavenly priest
discover the beauty and power of your ongoing prayer for us and with us. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Lord God,
when we struggle to worship you as Lord,
show us again the beauty and power of your rule.
Teach us again that serving you is the path to true freedom.
May your Holy Spirit strengthen us today,
leading us to honor and worship you more deeply,
not only with the words we sing
but also with the lives we lead before your face,
through Jesus, our reigning Lord. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
—Psalm 24:7-8, 10, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
the one who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and have begun to reign.
Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.
Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you,
for your judgments have been revealed. Amen.
—from Revelation 11:17; 12:10, NIV; 15:3-4, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty
and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established,
firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days.
—Psalm 93:1-2, 5, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Assurance

We believe that we have no access to God
except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor:
“Jesus Christ the righteous,”
who therefore was made human,
uniting together the divine and human natures,
so that we human beings might have access to the divine majesty.
—from Belgic Confession, Art. 26
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Ascended Lord Jesus, help us to turn our thoughts toward you. We confess to
you this Ascension Day that we so often fail to take you into account. Sometimes
we do not set our minds upon you because of sheer laziness—it’s easier just to go
with society’s flow. Sometimes we do not take you into account because of simple
inattention—we just forget to look for ways in which we could serve your gospel
in a given situation. At other times we have not turned toward you because we have
actively and willfully decided to turn away from you.
When and where we fail to be transparent to your cosmic lordship, please
forgive us. By your Spirit of Pentecost, sent to us precisely because you are reigning
on high, help us to see this world the way you see it. From your exalted throne you
are able to see us and this world and its many hurting people clearly and well. Help
us to open our own eyes. Grant us vision and insight to view the people around us
through the lens of your own compassion.
Sometimes, O God, we conceive of your lordship as regal, powerful, and
perhaps a bit distant. We think your sovereign rule involves mostly quashing evil,
pursuing justice, and judging sin. Remind us by your Spirit that your lordship is
also about being close to people in need. Prod us to recall that in your kingdom,
rulership comes through servanthood and that the hands that uphold our world are
the pierced and tender hands of Jesus. Help us to remember (so that we may imitate
this ourselves) that you see not just evil that needs judging but also suffering that
needs ministry.
For you, O Lord, see the tears of the widowed, the sobs that overtake them when
the rest of us are not looking. You see the disorientation in which so many people
live every day—confusion borne of war, poverty, abuse, or chronic illness. You
see the people in dead-end jobs who trudge to work every day filled with so much
despair that they can hardly breathe. You see those who search a loved one’s eyes
for traces of love but find only an empty stare. As Lord of the earth, you spy every
instance of one person cutting another to the quick, every place where a child lives
in fear, every bar where someone tries to drown their sorrows.
Yet you are our world’s every hope. You are tender enough to weep with those
who weep and yet strong enough to lend comfort and not be consumed with the
sorrows that overwhelm us. You are discerning enough to see where our lives run
off the rails and yet gracious enough to forgive our foolishness and open again
the better path that leads into your kingdom. You are the bright center to all of
life, O God! Your lordship helps us glimpse our future with you in your kingdom,
even as it points the way home.
Make us into people of the ascension, Christ Jesus! Make us your hands of mercy,
your voice of grace, your presence of love. Whatever we do, whether in word
or deed; whatever we see, whether sinful or salacious; whatever we hear, whether
uplifting or depressing; whatever we face in this world, help us to face it in your
power and with the knowledge of your grace and goodness. Help us to be gentle
with prodigal children. Help us to be stalwart in the truth with people in love with
lies. Help us to be radiant with hope with people who fear death. Help us to be your
people, Lord God.
For today, as always, this world needs your shalom-filled presence. Bring peace
to war-torn places and help people everywhere to see in one another your image.
May those who delight in the paths of suicide and destruction be turned instead to
delight in life and in mutual flourishing. End the terror in which so many live, and
thwart the dreams of those who plot still more terror on the unsuspecting. Where
there is hunger, bring bread; where there is drought and thirst, send refreshing
rains; where there is hatred, bring your peace; where there is greed, bring your own
fullness and so turn appetites run amok away from short-term pleasures toward
things that last and that foster richness and plenty for all.
We are the people of your ascension and reign, Holy Christ of God. Whatever
we do, help us never to forget who we are, whose we are, and where true joy may
be found.
In the power and blessing of your name we pray. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

Almighty God, you have given victory to Christ, your Anointed One.
Keep us from stumbling into lesser loyalties, and give us strength to stand firm,
trusting in the grace and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Lift Up Your Hearts (http://www.liftupyourheartshymnal.org)

Almighty God, you have given victory to Christ, your Anointed One.
Keep us from stumbling into lesser loyalties and give us strength to stand firm,
trusting in the grace and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

Eternal God, mighty in the heavens,
you brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ,
lifting him to life and drawing him up
into the glory he shares with you and the Holy Spirit.
Stretch our minds and hearts toward your majestic love.
Raise our eyes, lift our heads,
expand our vision of you
and your sovereign purposes in the world
that rest upon the strength
of our ascended Lord. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two
218

To Your Unequaled Strength (Psalm 21)

Tune Information

Name
DETROIT
Key
d minor
Meter
8.6.8.6

Recordings

218

To Your Unequaled Strength (Psalm 21)

Hymn Story/Background

The text is slightly revised from my original setting of Psalm 21 in the Psalter for Christian Worship (1999; revised, 2010), written for my congregation at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta as a means of reclaiming the Reformed tradition of singing metrical Psalms in our worship. The tune is the early American modal melody, DETROIT, as set by American church music composer Hal H. Hopson.
— Michael Morgan

Presumably named after the Michigan city and river, DETROIT was published anony­mously in Ananias Davisson's shape-note tune book Supplement to Kentucky Harmony (1820). The tune is credited to "Bradshaw" in Virginia Harmony (1831) and Southern Harmony (1835). Thought to be an Appalachian adaptation of an old English folk song, DETROIT has a fine melodic curve over its two long lines, ascending and then descending. 
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Michael Morgan (b. 1948) is a church musician, Psalm scholar, and collector of English Bibles and Psalters from Atlanta, Georgia. After almost 40 years, he now serves as Organist Emeritus for Atlanta’s historic Central Presbyterian Church, and as Seminary Musician at Columbia Theological Seminary. He holds degrees from Florida State University and Atlanta University, and did post-graduate study with composer Richard Purvis in San Francisco. He has played recitals, worship services, and master classes across the U. S., and in England, France, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany. He is author of the Psalter for Christian Worship , and a regular contributor in the field of psalmody (most recently to the Reformed collections Psalms for All Seasons and Lift Up Your Hearts, and the new Presbyterian hymnal, Glory to God).
— Michael Morgan

Composer Information

Hal H. Hopson (b. Texas, 1933) is a prolific composer, arranger, clinician, teacher and promoter of congregational song, with more than 1300 published works, especially of hymn and psalm arrangements, choir anthems, and creative ideas for choral and organ music in worship. Born in Texas, with degrees from Baylor University (BA, 1954), and Southern Baptist Seminary (MSM, 1956), he served churches in Nashville, TN, and most recently at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. He has served on national boards of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians and the Choristers Guild, and taught numerous workshops at various national conferences. In 2009, a collection of sixty four of his hymn tunes were published in Hymns for Our Time: The Collected Tunes of Hal H. Hopson.
— Emily Brink

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