Friday, December 28, 2007

New Favorite Hymns

Selecting hymns over the past seven months as the pastor of a church has given me far greater familiarity with The United Methodist Hymnal than ever before. Here are a few that I have gained a great appreciation for. These take into account how well known they are to the congregation and how easily sung they are. As our pianist learned to play the piano in order to provide music for our church and has a very busy schedule, I try to avoid very musically complex pieces

#361 Rock of Ages
This 1776 hymn by Augustus M. Toplady is saturated with good theology. It strongly emphasizes total depravity, free grace, and unmerited atonement. For example, verse two reads:

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

#127 Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
An old Welsh hymn by William Williams, it was translated into English in 1771. The tune was known to my congregation (the same as 577 God of Grace and God of Glory), but the words were not. I often include it in sermons about the providential love of God for humanity. The first verse reads:

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah
pilgrim through this barren land.
I am week, but thou are mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more;
feed me till I want no more.

#568 Christ for the World We Sing
Initially, there was no missional hymn in the church's repertoire. Looking through those available, I selected this one because of its well-expressed ecclesiology and musical simplicity. It is a great anthem of the purpose of the Church: to build the Kingdom of God on Earth. The first verse of the 1869 hymn by Samuel Wolcott reads:

Christ for the world we sing,
the world to Christ we bring,
with loving zeal;
the poor and them that mourn
sin-sick and sorrow-worn,
the faint and overborn
whom Christ doth heal.

What are your favorite hymns, and why?

UPDATE: Lyrics to the last hymn corrected.


greg hazelrig said...

My favorite hymn is "O How I Love Jesus". I would hope the reason would be obvious. :)

Keith Taylor said...

One of my favorites is "Faith of Our Fathers". It reminds me of the trials and tests of great men and women of the Christian faith from the dawn of the Christian Church. It also was the hymn that was sung as I went forward and recieved Christian Baptism in 1991 on Fathers Day and that is the first thing I think of when I hear it.

I like "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood" because they speak of the blood scrifice and atonement of Christ for me.

"My Hope is Built" is one of my favorites. It has more good theology in that hymn that almost all the modern praise hymns you will hear on Christian Radio.

I also love "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "the Battle Hymn of the Republic" because they remind me that as a Christian we are war with the world system and the Enemy that governs this world. Many don't like these hymns in the UM hymnal because they think Christians aren't supposed to glorify war, but we are in the middle of a spiritual war and should remember that each and every day.

The Appalachian Wonder said...

Unfortunately, it is no longer in the UM Hymnal, but Arise My Soul Arise is a great hymn of assurance by Charles Wesley. It's one of those where you can't leave out a verse because you'll miss part of the story...great theology:

Arise, my soul, arise;
shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice
in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above,
for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love,
His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears;
received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers;
they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray,
His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away,
the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled;
His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child;
I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

benaforn said...

Hmm. I'm a sucker for lyrics and unusual songs. This one you won't find published in a hymnal, since it's a song a church I'd attended had invented some years ago. It has an Irish-influenced melody, played predominantly with the recorder, violin, and conga drums.

Inspired by, and thus named 'Psalm 84'.

How lovely is the place where you are dwelling
Oh our mighty and fearsome God
I am so worn and weary, waiting hungry
For the rest that flows from your power

For the peace of your city is still over violence
To quiet the war of my soul
For all of my being is yearning within me
For you to be ruler of all
For you to be ruler of all

All people and powers both seen and invisible
Are subject before your throne
Yet you, the great God, do whatever you want to
And council no will but your own

Yet with all of your freedom you move in compassion
And what has been dead you remade
You poured your rich mercy on the humble and helpless
And enraptured those saints in your praise
And enraptured those saints in your praise

Joyful are those who find you as their refuge
And cling to no strength of their own
Though thirsty and burdened they find no refreshment
Except in your presence alone

With each step they grow stronger from glory to glory
With each breath they become more alive
Until faith becomes seeing and all find their meaning
And every soul satisfied
And every soul satisfied