Each Wednesday I gather with other members from the Worship Ministry Team and we work to put together the order of worship for the coming Sunday. We seek God’s guidance as we try to add music that God can use to bring the people to a place of worship while preparing the congregation to receive the preached word. Within that overriding context we seek a balance between affirming the music the congregation knows and is near and dear to their hearts against the introduction of new music that may be less familiar but represents God’s continued work of inspiration and revelation in worship music. Sometimes we find it challenging to find music that helps prepare the congregation to receive the preached word.
This was the case recently. The message spoke to the admonishment of God to reach out and touch him. We have music that speaks to God reaching out and touching us, but not much about the call for us to reach out to God. There is the Martin Nystrom song “As the Deer Pants”, taken from Psalm 42:1, that speaks to the longing of the heart for the Lord. It can be found in The Faith We Sing, but they include only one verse.
This made me begin to think about the music we have available to us and what we might be missing. The preacher at a recent event for clergy share how she had sang “A Charge to Keep I Have” for years never knowing it was a Charles Wesley composition.
While facilitating a discussion with the youth about the source and nature of evil I was reminded of what for me had long been a foundational hymn in my faith formation, “Yield Not to Temptation”. I was making the point that as we are told in scripture, James 4:7, NRSV “…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NRSV) Our assurance rest in that given us as noted in Hebrews 2:18, NRSV, “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” My point was that the songs of the Church are able to give us divine word that can strengthen and sustain us through life’s journey. The problem for them is that they did not even have knowledge of this song or many others for that matter. Though this particular hymn can be found in The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal, it is not in nor has it ever been in The United Methodist Hymnal.
This only enforces my opinion that we should all be open to the breath of music that may be out there. Whether it is new praise, old hymnody, or songs from around the world we must remember that God continues to move within the hearts of many to inspire words of truth and praise that can strengthen and sustains us on this journey. “Si tuvieras fe” is one of those songs. It boldly proclaims the truth of Matthew 17:20. I have to often take the words of the Spanish language songs we sing that are not in the Hymnal or are not translations or have been translated and translate them myself to know what God is seeking to open to me. The music opens my heart and the translation opens my understanding to the truth of the word of God in music that bridges the divide that seeks to keep us from the food given to sustain our souls, God’s gift of song. May we like Peter come to understand that God has blessed all spiritual food as good for the soul.