The Vicar's Letter (this letter written by Reverend Stephen Burge) has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002
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Vicar's Letter

April 2023

Reverend Stephen Burge, Associate Priest of the Church of St Mary The Virgin, Eaton Bray with Edlesborough.

Samuel Sebastian Wesley's anthem Blessed Be the God and Father is almost synonymous with Easter. Despite a fairly calamitous premiere on Easter Day in 1834, where half the choir were not available, it has become a regular feature in the choral repertoire of Anglican churches. Wesley's gem of an anthem is often sung on Easter Sunday at Choral Evensong, the final service of Holy Week, making it the last hurrah after a week of intense work for choir and clergy alike. I am sure that this would make S. S. Wesley very happy - when he entered his anthem into a church music competition, he was firmly rebuked and told that it was not what church music should sound like at all! It is very hard to imagine such a thought now!

So why is Wesley's Blessed be the God and Father so popular? What makes it so special? To begin with he sets a beautiful passage from Peter's First Letter. The passage is too long to include here, but the opening words are "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his great mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1 Peter 1:3).

These are powerful words, giving us great hope for new life and renewal through the resurrection of Jesus which we share in too. The other reason why Wesley's anthem is so popular is because the music is really top notch. The piece begins by setting the words just quoted in quietly, the choir singing unaccompanied, building up to a loud, confident declaration of the power of Jesus's resurrection, which Wesley supports with the entrance of a loud and brassy organ chord. It is dramatic stuff - but that is exactly what the resurrection is!

The central part of the anthem includes a famous treble solo, then duet setting the words, "Love one another with a pure heart fervently. See that ye love one another." (1 Peter 1:22). I don't think that there are many better ways to sum up what Jesus's death and resurrection are all about. As John writes in his Gospel, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." Jesus's sacrifice for us was an act of love for us and for the whole world and as Christians we are called to love the world too. We must, as Peter writes, love one another with a pure heart fervently.

Wesley ends his anthem with a rousing chorus with the choir singing the words, "But the word of the Lord endureth for ever." (1 Peter 1:25) And God does endure forever, God endures all our sin, and surrounds us in his love. On our part, let us respond with our own acts of love. Let us surround others in our broken world, the poor, the needy, the sick, the prisoners, the homeless, refugees, in the love and grace that we so gratefully and gladly receive.

So I wish you all a very Happy and Holy Easter and may you all be filled with the joyful hope given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. God bless,

Rev'd Stephen Burge

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About the Vicar's Letter

The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.

The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the area for these.