Hymns hold an essential role in the life of the church and always have, though I’m not sure we’re always aware of it. They are instruments that enable a congregation to unite hearts and voices in offering praise of God. Each week, the opening hymn helps to center us for the hour of worship ahead, directing our focus to God and the presence of the holy. The second hymn, known as the “hymn of preparation,” sets the stage for the scripture reading and the sermon, opening our minds to the Word of God. The final hymn, known as the “hymn of dedication,” sets us on our way as we depart the sanctuary and our time of worship for another week of service in the world around us, in Christ’s name.
Hymns also inspire us and us teach the faith. Poetry set to music, they remind us of God’s boundless love and mercy, teach us to do good in the world on God’s behalf, to walk in the ways of Jesus, and to persevere through times of trial and trouble. They recount biblical stories, yes. But mostly, speak to the life of faith that has emerged through centuries of women and men who have sought to live a life of faith.
As someone who has spent his whole life in church, hymns are often the background music of my days. I’ll find myself humming the tune of a hymn, or actually singing a line from one of its verses over and over again. It’s in times like these that I realize the essential role hymns play in my life.
Since my return from vacation near the end of September, the following hymn has been carrying me through my days. I awaken to its strains. I find myself singing it joyfully as I walk from the parsonage to the church, or through Market Basket, or as I enter a meeting or appointment in the community. I share it here, in hopes that as you read it, the tune will come to mind for you, too:
My life flows on in endless song; above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul – how can I keep from singing?
What though my joys and comforts die? My Savior still is living.
What though the shadows gather ‘round? A new song Christ is giving.
No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging;
Since Love commands both heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?
I lift my eyes; the clouds grow thin; I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths, since first I learned to love it.
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am Christ’s – how can I keep from singing?
October is here! A busy month for us at First Church as we lean into the life and ministry of our church for the coming days, from now through Christmas, and really, May. As I enter this busy season with you, there’s a song on my heart and a melody guiding my steps. It is a joy to live and worship and serve and pray and sing as a part of this community! I’m so glad I’m here! I hope you feel the same.
See you in church…
Written by Rev. William D. Ingraham
This passage can be found in the October 2019 Beacon