Julie Myers is a thoughtful composer/lyricist whose work is presented with a number of today’s leading choral writers. Her texts are fresh perspectives on timeless truths and have inspired many wonderful anthems. In this WorshipSongsOnline guest blog she provides ideas for creative presentations of one of her latest efforts.
A Devotional Liturgy
based on the anthem
Lyrics by Julie I. Myers
Music by Joel Raney
~ On the Writing of the Lyrics ~
The metaphors in the lyrics of “Creation’s Cathedral” were chosen to visualize the natural world as one great cathedral under heaven and to promote an understanding of why the seraphs above the throne of the Lord proclaim, “The whole earth is full of (God’s) glory!” (Isaiah 6:3).
The first verse begins in the sky and focuses on the “outer/vertical” structure of the massive natural cathedral. The second verse starts on the ground and focuses on the “inner/horizontal” structure, lifting at the end, past the mountains and the moon to the throne of God in the chorus. The remaining lines reveal elements of worship taking place within the cathedral before once again rising to join the song of the seraphs.
This journey through creation also meanders like a stream through a liturgical worship service…occasionally bubbling up, disappearing underground, or cascading in unexpected places…but proceeding, more or less, as one who is familiar with a traditional service might expect.
Since many of the references are subtle, I have expanded upon and presented them here in the form of a liturgy for devotional use (ideally outside, or at least envisioning the natural world**).
~ Special thanks to Joel Raney for composing the beautiful musical setting, which captures the “universal spirit” of this anthem. ~
To listen to the anthem, follow this link: Creation’s Cathedral
**Notes of caution for use outdoors: Please keep in mind that since the lion has yet to lie down with the lamb, it would be wise to be alert for critters when sitting down or hanging out in their habitats. Also, to avoid the possibility of a brush or forest fire, please refrain from lighting candles/fires outdoors (or, be sure to observe the area’s fire safety code).
This devotional Copyright © 2019 by Julie I. Myers
Lyrics of “Creation’s Cathedral” Copyright © 2018 by HAL LEONARD LLC International Copyright Secured All Rights Reserved
~ A Devotional Liturgy ~
by Julie I. Myers
A journey through creation to an understanding of God’s glory
Introduction. The tone is set with a peaceful, expansive feeling in the music.
CALL TO WORSHIP
In creation’s cathedral, the dome is the sky.
If you look up into the expanse of the sky, try to envision it as a great and high dome, large enough to encompass everyone on earth. All are invited, all are welcome.
Reading: Psalm 19:1-4a
The art on the ceiling is clouds floating by.
While the nature of God is unchanging, the natural world shows the Lord’s continuing artistic creativity. Every day, even moment by moment, a new “Hello!” from our Creator appears in the sky, with clouds gathering, puffing up, shaping into scenes, building to vast formations with light and possibly a rainbow shining through, or dissipating in wisps…all calling for our attention, if we’d only look up.
Reading: Job 38:37
HYMN OF PRAISE
The panes of stained glass are the colors of dawn.
Each sunrise is unique; each day is an opportunity to start afresh. God’s mercies are new every morning.
Reading: Lamentations 3:22-23
THE CANDLES ARE LIT
The candles are stars…
Even in a bustling city, the quiet flickering of candlelight within the walls of a house of worship can call to mind the twinkling of stars in the expanse of the night sky. Far away, yet visible for our gladness of heart. Silent, yet speaking volumes.
Reading: Psalm 8:3-4
THE ETERNAL FLAME IS BURNING
…and the flame is the sun.
The sun is always shining…although it might be temporarily hidden from our sight behind thick clouds or on the other side of the earth. The Bible describes the Lord as a sun and a shield to us. Although sometimes seemingly hidden from us, God is always there.
Reading: Psalm 84:11
In creation’s cathedral, the floor is the ground.
The echoes are canyons that gladly resound.
Let alleluias and praises to the Lord ring out!
+ If you are near a canyon or mountainous valley, etc., consider calling out a word or short phrase and listen to the echoes.
Reading: Isaiah 35:1-2
The woodwork is forests, with logs for the pews.
Try listening in silence for 60 seconds. What sounds do you hear? How many of the sounds are created by people or their inventions? How many are from nature?
Reading: Psalm 1:1-3
APOSTLES’ CREED [or NICENE CREED*]
The stonework is mountains…
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…”
[*“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”]
Reading: Psalm 146:5-6
…and the clock is the moon.
The moon acts as part of God’s heavenly clockwork, ruling the night as it reflects the sun’s rays and works in conjunction with its brighter partner to mark times, days, seasons, and years. Some churches and cathedrals have clocks on their bell towers which, when lit up at night, look like full moons against the dark sky.
Readings: Genesis 1:14-18, Psalm 104:19
OLD TESTAMENT LESSON
Oh, glory! Glory! Glory! Glory!
The whole earth is full, the whole earth is full, the whole earth is full of God’s glory!
Since “the heavens declare the glory of God,” why don’t the seraphs above the Lord’s throne proclaim, “The whole universe is full of (God’s) glory!”? This spotlight on the earth highlights God’s intentional focus on our planet…and by extension, the inhabitants thereof.
Among the countless multitudes of heavenly bodies in the universe, the earth is the ideal place for supporting the life of “all creatures of our God and King”. It fulfills an awe inspiring checklist of the conditions necessary for a planet to be habitable for humans, from having the right kind of atmosphere to being in the right kind of celestial zone (not too hot, not too cold, but a “Goldilocks/just right” distance from our star, the sun). Going far above and beyond what was needed for our existence, the Lord also created the earth to be beautiful for our enjoyment. Glory!
Reading: Isaiah 6:1-3 [*Psalm 19:1]
In creation’s cathedral, the choir is the birds.
Greeters of the sunrise, lifters of our heads and hearts, birds bring cheer to the world with their sweet chirps, gentle coos, captivating warbles, bold calls and bursts of jubilant song. No wonder the sparrow and the swallow are allowed to find “a home…a nest…a place” near the altar of God.
Reading: Psalm 84:3
The bees hum the hymns.
While birds sing in the “loft” of high places, bees make music as they work among the flowers in grasses, fields, gardens, and orchards. The honey they produce in their hives is well known for its sweetness and good properties. Unbeknown to the bees, their efforts in creating a quality product result in an even more important task: the pollination of plants that feed the world.
+ Pause to consider how your work or activities during the week, along with your participation in the life of the church, might bring unexpected glory to the Lord.
Readings: Proverbs 16:24, Galatians 6:9
Flowers teach us, unheard.
“Consider the lilies…” Jesus pointed to flowers as an example for us not to worry. In Job, we are told to ask the animals, the birds, the earth, and the fish to teach us. Contemplation on the “wordless” wonders of nature can calm our hearts and lead us to a deeper understanding of the presence, the care, and the knowledge of God.
+ Focus on a flower, a fish, a butterfly, or something else you see in nature. What features make it unique? Does it seem worried? What can you learn from observing it?
Readings: Luke 12:27-31, Job 12:7-10
The firstfruits rise up…
The farmer sows seeds and harvests crops. But how does adding the right amount of water, warmth, nutrients, and light actually cause tiny seeds to sprout and grow into amber waves of grain or sprawling vines of pumpkins or elephant’s eye-high corn stalks? Only God fully understands this glorious process. He could have made all that we eat gray and bland. But for our good health and delight, God created a wide variety of colors, tastes, textures, and shapes of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Nature is filled with signs of the Creator’s cheerful giving. And God loves it when we give cheerfully as well.
Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:7
THE PASSING OF THE PEACE
…rivers greet us in peace.
Peace like a river is extended to us from the Lord. Pass it on.
Reading: Isaiah 66:12a
The wind of the Spirit is heard through the trees.
While forests can be viewed from a distance, one must be fairly close to trees to hear the wind rustling the leaves. This line is a call to draw near to God and listen to the still, small voice of the Spirit. Also, this second reference to trees in a lyric tightly listing as many features of creation as possible (rather than adding the sea, for example) shines a special light on them. The humble substance of wood is exalted even above the stars, due to its allusion to the cross. The Spirit ultimately points to Jesus.
Readings: John 3:8; 16:12-15
Oh, glory! Glory! Glory! Glory!
The whole earth is full, the whole earth is full,
the whole earth is full of God’s glory!
Isaiah’s account of his glorious vision is prefaced by a sad event which occurred that year: King Uzziah died*. Yet, Isaiah is worshipping in the temple. Especially during difficult times, we need the fellowship, support, and prayers of our church family. And sometimes, a quiet walk in a park or a hike in the great outdoors can be a balm for our souls and remind us that the Lord still reigns on the throne.
+ Pause to lift up prayer requests.
[*Reading: Isaiah 6:1; for Uzziah’s reign, see 2 Chronicles 26]
THE LORD’S PRAYER
God’s awesome glory, Majestic glory, God’s radiant glory, full of God’s glory!
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Reading: Matthew 6:9-13 ~ or ~ Recite the Lord’s Prayer.
Originally, the lyrics for “Creation’s Cathedral” included a fourth verse. While it would have made the anthem quite long, the lines are included here, as an optional conclusion for the liturgy.
CONFESSION OF SINS
In creation’s cathedral, the snow covers stains.
Reading: Isaiah 1:18
The grain and the grapes make our hearts clean again.
Reading: I Corinthians 11:23-26
The rain falls in blessing on all lands and shores.
Reading: Matthew 5:44-45
The distant horizon calls us to go forth.
Reading: Matthew 28:19-20