Behind the Hymns – 5
Come Let us Sing
The author of our first hymn was Robert Walmsley who was born in Manchester England in 1831. A jeweler by trade, he attended Congregationalist churches. For 28 years he worked with the Manchester Sunday School Union for whom many of his hymns were written. Shortly before his death he published 44 of his hymns in a collection entitled “Sacred Songs for Children of all Ages.” Robert’s many hymns were simple, musical and full of a deep love for God. He celebrated the works of God in nature and had a deep love for all children especially the little ones.
Certainly, this hymn was one that appealed to all ages. I remember well singing this one often when I was in Sunday School. Even as I grew, I continued to love this hymn.
Come, let us sing of a wonderful love. There are all kinds of love that people sing about but to sing of a wonderful love that comes from God our Father is to sing of a love above and beyond all others. Not only does this love begin with God, it streams from God and still even dwells with God.
When we reflect on the visible love of God that was witnessed by people through the life of Jesus, we begin to catch a glimpse of that love in action. To those in society who were helpless and hopeless, to those bound by sorrow or shame, God came in Jesus – seeking the lost and then redeeming their lives with his own blood and sacrifice.
In the third verse the author reminds us that Jesus is not just a figure of the past who lived for a moment in time but he is a figure for eternity and so he is alive for us in this time. Jesus not only sought for wanderers in that far off time and place, but he is able to seek for and find those who wander today.
The author puzzles over why people continue to roam? What is keeping them from finding the one who is seeking for them? The answer is in the next line: Love only waits to forgive and forget. One of the greatest challenges God faces in redeeming our lives and the lives of others is our own struggle with accepting the unconditional love of God for ourselves and being willing to extend that love to others. Forgive and forget – allowing ourselves and others the opportunity to truly know and believe in the love, redemption and salvation of God.
Finally, the author challenges himself and us. He wants that love of God to come and abide in his life so that his life can be lifted above the things that would detract from the fullness of that love and its ability to be experienced as God intended. To overcome envy, falsehood and false pride are things the author knows are challenges for any of us; but as we strive to do so, we will grow in humility as we become more and more a learner, a disciple, a follower of God.
Lord Listen to your children praying
The next song we are going to sing was written by Ken Medema. Ken was born in Grand Rapids Michigan in 1942. Legally blind from birth Ken developed a passion for music at an early age. He began playing the piano at the age of 5. Blindness was not widely accepted when Ken was young, and he was shunned by other children. He spent much of his childhood alone. He found solace in music.
He started professional musical instruction when he was 8. Through the careful instruction of his teacher, Ken learned to use Braille music sheets andplay classical pieces of music by memory. He was encouraged to be innovative with his music style and his talent flourished. In 1969 he received a Masters Degree in Music Therapy from Michigan State University. He began recording for Word and Shawnee Press in 1973 and in 1985 founded an independent recording company called Brier Patch Music.
Lord listen to your children praying is a song that invites God to be present with we the people of God. We will sing this three times increasing our speed from slow and meditative to a quicker pace to remind us of the power of the Holy Spirit to move within us as we askGod for three things: love, power and grace.
Put your hand in the hand
How wonderful to have a gospel song written by a Canadian author whose work has been recorded and used by more than 100 singers over time. Born in Val d’Or, Quebec in 1938, Gene MacLellan was raised in Toronto where he began playing guitar and singing. In the mid-60s, he moved to PEI. Appearances on Don Messer’s Jubilee and Singalong Jubilee led to him meeting Anne Murray who recorded “Snowbird” in 1970. The song won a Juno for MacLellan. He followed it up the next year with “Put your hand in the hand”. Despite his great success in the recording business, Gene chose to spend his latter years performing in churches and prisons and for those living in retirement communities. In the early 90s, he appeared with Anne Murray when she was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame. In another ceremony, his songs “Snowbird”, “The Call”, and “Put your hand in the hand” were declared to be Canadian Classics by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. Following his death in 1995, he was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Association’s Hall of Honour.
We will only sing the first verse and chorus of this iconic song - one that makes the presence of Jesus in our lives so real.
Great is thy faithfulness
The author of our last hymn was Thomas O. Chisholm. Thomas was born in Franklin, Kentucky in 1866. His boyhood was spent ona farm. He spent five years as editor of the local paper in Franklin. Thomas di not convert to Christianity until the age of 26. Soon after he became the business manager and office editor of the "Pentecostal Herald" inLouisville, Kentucky. In 1903 he entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.
Thomas said that his aim in writing was to incorporate as much as Scripture as possible and to avoid flippant or sentimental themes.
Written in 1923, this hymn has become for many one of the best loved and well-known hymns. The unchanging nature of God’s faithfulness is celebrated by the author. I am sure that his conversion as an adult had much to do with the strong convictions expressed in this hymn. To a person who had spent more than 25 years not knowing God I am sure that the faithfulness of the God he found, the compassion of this God and the fact that he could look forward to the mercies of God each morning as he awoke would have given him great comfort and hope.
Thomas goes on to reflect how the changing seasons only reinforced his strong belief in the faithfulness of God. In the final verse he reflects on the blessings that have come into his life through his relationship with God: pardon for sin, a peace that endures, the presence of God to cheer and guide him, strength for today and not just hope but bright hope for tomorrow. All these are blessings to him and what’s more there are ten thousand beside.
Let us sing Great is thy Faithfulness.