My Light and My Salvation - Epiphany Sunday - Psalm 27

A service for Epiphany Sunday built around Psalm 27, which declares that the Lord is our light and our salvation.

Worship Service

Epiphany is the season of the Christian year that is perhaps least well known and understood. "Epiphany" means manifestation and it is the season in which we mark the revelation of God's light through the ministry of Jesus Christ. In most traditions, Epiphany begins on January 6 and continues through the first two or three Sundays of the new year.

Theme of the Service

In keeping with Epiphany, which celebrates Jesus coming as the light of God, this service is built around Psalm 27, which declares that the Lord is our light and our salvation. The theme, therefore, is "My Light and My Salvation." Such a comforting message is very appropriate for the beginning of a new year. Because the structure of this service is shaped by the psalm, we suggest that information like what's in the box below be placed on the bulletin cover or at the heading of the worship sheet.

Psalm 27

Many of the psalms of David are treasured by the people of God because they have been born out of the soul and experience of David himself. This psalm is one of those in which David gives his personal testimony of great security in the hand of God in all of life's experiences.

We aim today to take a worshipful walk through this psalm. In doing so, we will "gaze on the beauty of the Lord" and find new strength of heart.

We Gather in the Presence of God

Prelude

"How I Love You, Lord, My God," Linker [organ]; Organ [piano]
"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," Held, Walcha [organ]; Walther [piano]

An Introduction to the Service

*Responsive Reading

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
the Lord is the stronghold of my life. Amen!

*Song: "O Lord, You Are My Light" (st. 1-4) PsH 164

I Am Embraced (vv. 1-3)

Responsive Reading

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh,
when enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
the Lord is the stronghold of my life.

Message

Prayer

Responsorial: "Psalm 91" SFL 205, SNC 185 (refrain)

Alternate sung response: "The Lord Is My Light" (st. 1) SNC 192

I Need a Quiet Place (vv. 4-6)

Responsive Reading

One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
the Lord is the stronghold of my life!

Message

Prayer

Sung Prayer: "My God, How Wonderful You Are" (st. 1) PsH 499, TH 35

My God, how wonderful you are;
your majesty, how bright!
How beautiful your mercy seat
in depths of burning light!

Directed Meditation

Song: "Psalm 84: How Lovely, Lord, How Lovely" SNC 184 or "Near to the Heart of God" PH 527, TWC 542

I Cry to God (vv. 7-12)

Responsive Reading

Hear my voice when I call, O Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, "seek his face!"
Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.

Teach me your way, O Lord;
lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
the Lord is the stronghold of my life!

Message

Prayer

Song: "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" (st. 1-3) PH 404, PsH 493, TWC 638 or "Listen to My Cry, Lord" PsH 61

Anthem: "Shepherd of My Heart," O'Brien

(the congregation joins the choir on each refrain)

We Return to Living With Confidence (vv. 13-14)

Responsive Reading

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord!

Song: "Those Who Wait Upon the Lord" (st. 1-7) SFL 215

st. 1 – all
st. 2 – women
st. 3 – men
st. 4 – all
st. 5 – east side of sanctuary
st. 6 – west side of sanctuary
st. 7 – all
(During the singing an offering will be received.)

*The Benediction

*Closing Song: "All Praise to You, My God, This Night" (st. 1-5) PH 542, PsH 441, RL 77, TH 401, TWC 361

st. 1 – all
st. 2 – women
st. 3 – all, in parts unaccompanied
st. 4 – all, in unison
st. 5 – all, in four-part canon

  or "Siyahamba/We Are Marching in the Light of God" (SNC 293 or setting by H. Hopson)

Postlude: "All Praise to You, My God, This Night," Burkhardt
or "Siyahamba/We Are Marching in the Light of God," Behnke [organ]; Carter [piano]

*you are invited to stand

Liturgy Notes

  1. See the comments above about using the Introduction to the Service to explain the setting and mood of Psalm 27; the format of this service will also need introductory explanation. Help the worshipers to understand that the intent of this service is to walk through the entirety of this psalm worshipfully so that we can breathe its spirit and be nurtured by its truths.
  2. This service contains five responsive readings. In this way the entirety of the psalm is set before the worshipers, and they take much of it on their own lips. Note that in the responsive readings the opening and closing of the psalm are repeated a number of times to reinforce its message.
  3. You may design your own responsive reading for Psalm 91 or you may choose to use what is printed in Songs for LiFE (205). We have also provided an alternate sung response that is based on Psalm 27.
  4. In the section for verses 4-6 the theme is reinforced by concluding the pastoral prayer with a sung prayer that is rich and reflective in tone. In addition, a time of directed meditation is included. Some people may be unfamiliar, even uncomfortable, with such a practice. It will help to explain that the worshipers are invited to meditate on God's care for them—usually 60 seconds is sufficient.
  5. Because of the spirit of this psalm, particularly its conclusion, the end of this worship service can be very comforting. The benediction is a rich gift from God as we reenter the responsibilities of life.

Sermon Notes

This sermon must be presented in several segments to make it most meaningful and to aid the worshipers in living into the spirit of each section of Psalm 27. In the "Introduction to the Service" the mood and spirit of Psalm 27 can be set forth. Though we do not know the circumstances in which David wrote the psalm, we can imagine a number of situations in his life that might have given rise to it.

In the message on verses 1-3 we must help the worshipers sense the serenity that comes from a word like "stronghold." Many similar words are used in the Psalms: refuge, rock, fortress. Such words communicate God's embrace for his own. This strength can come to us as Jesus brings the light of God to us.

The second section (vv. 4-6) focuses on David's longing to return to the safety of Jerusalem and the tabernacle. He finds there the quiet security that he can find nowhere else. For some reason he is prohibited from getting there and he misses it very much. We can learn from David's reasons for wanting to go there: to find quiet safety, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, and to feel his heart breaking out into a sacrifice of joy. It's a good opportunity for us to examine our reasons for going to church!

The third section (vv. 7-12) includes David's cry to God in the face of enemies that threaten to attack him. David feels free to cry out to God with his needs. He teaches us to know the same freedom. God is not pleased when we hide our pain and neediness before him. He treasures our cries for help!

The closing verses of this psalm (vv. 13-14) show David's willingness to move ahead on his journey in life, confident that he will continue to experience the goodness of God. We affirm that God's embrace is available for us when we receive his benediction!

Music Notes

  1. The prelude suggestions include settings on the hymn tunes "Aberystwyth" and "Ein Feste Burg" for either piano or organ. They can be found in the following sources:
    -"Aberystwyth": Suite for Holy Week by Janet Linker, published by Beckenhorst OC5 [1989] (E-M); and in Christ, Mighty Savior by Anne Krentz Organ, published by Augsburg 11-10819 [1997] (E-M).
    -"Ein Feste Burg": Hymn Preludes for the Autumn Festivals by Wilbur Held, published by Concordia 97-5360 [1976] (E); Chorale Preludes, book 1, by Helmut Walcha, published by Peters 4850 [1954] (M); and in Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales by Johann Walther, arranged by Reginald Gerig and published by Hope 251 [1959] (D).
  2. The responsorial anthem on Psalm 23, "Shepherd of My Heart" by Francis Patrick O'Brien, is published by GIA G-3770 [1992] (E). This anthem includes a photocopiable refrain for congregational use. Instrumental parts are also available from the publisher.
  3. We are suggesting two songs as possibilities for the closing hymn. If this service is planned for evening worship, we suggest "All Praise to You, My God, This Night"; if you plan this service for morning worship we suggest using "Siyahamba." We would also encourage you to include a time of confession in the service if used for morning worship. Hal Hopson has arranged an anthem with additional verses entitled "We Are Singing, for the Lord Is Our Light" based on "Siyahamba" that could be incorporated into the closing hymn. This anthem is published by Agape HH3949 [1994] (E).
  4. The postlude suggestions can be found in the following sources:
    -"All Praise to You, My God, This Night": Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 2, by Michael Burkhardt, published by Morningstar MSM-10-534 [1999] (E-M).
    -"Siyahamba": Three Global Songs by John Behnke, published by Hope 8057 [1999] (E); and in Contemporary Hymns and Songs for Piano / 4 Hands by John Carter, published by Hope 8087 [2000] (E-M).

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations

  • PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
  • PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
  • RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
  • SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
  • TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
  • WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

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