Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Choosing Hymns

As well as maintaining this blog, I'm on the worship committee for SPPC. It's a fun committee - we talk about music. Mainly, we choose hymns for the worship service. Hymns are chosen for a variety of reasons. Primarily we want the words to support the theme of the service, but also hymns as a call to worship, hymns for sending out, hymns for children. We want some rousers and some more contemplative music. We like to include old favourites, (there's a hymn request sheet in the narthex) and newer hymns. We can't please all of the people all of the time, but we try to include variety in every service. Sometimes we'll opt for a familiar tune if the words fit the service very well but the melody is awkward. Discussions can be lively, but they are always good-humoured. 
The work has certainly deepened my awareness of the hymns in our hymnbook, and from other sources. I like some of the newer hymns with their lively choruses, but wonder if they'll stand the test of time. Some of the older ones in our hymn book feel dated and the language convoluted. But some hymns are timeless and powerful, like our "sending out" hymn on Sunday.
Here's a commentary on it  by Dr. Cecil Kirk, late of our congregation.

Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I Go

There are few hymns which deal with the theme of work, but this is one of them and Wesley approaches the subject in a thoroughly Biblical way.  For Christian people, these words address the matters of the spirit in which we should approach our daily tasks and the difference our faith will make as we do our work.
Immediately we are disabused of the idea that faith and work can be divorced from one another. Sunday worship and weekday work belong together. They must not be separated as though one is spiritual and the other secular. Work is an essential element in the divine plan for human life. God Himself is the supreme worker. He created the world; He made each human being in His own image and He gave each of us the creative instinct which allows us to find fulfilment in our daily work. Nor must we forget that Jesus worked as a village carpenter before going out on His teaching ministry and, no doubt, the lessons He learned there stood Him in good stead as He worked with people. As we go out to our daily labour, we go "in Thy name." That will give us a different perspective. God, in his wisdom "hath assigned" that work to us and so we ask Him to "let me cheerfully fulfil (it)" and to acknowledge Him, not only in what we do but also in what we think and say.
Whatever work we do, it brings its own temptation. Two such temptations are specifically mentioned - overanxiety and greed. Those who occupy positions of responsibility know the danger of the former. Care robs us of our peace of mind and chokes our spiritual life. "The gilded baits of worldly love," refers to love of the world and love of money; both are forms of idolatry which would replace the love of God. So we must be on our guard against these temptations, maintaining our loyalty to Jesus Christ. Not only must we be vigilant but we should "every moment watch and pray", keeping our eyes fixed on "things eternal" instead of becoming absorbed in the transient things of this world.
Just as in worship, we remember God's presence and seek His glory, so too, we must do likewise in our work. Nothing can remain hidden from the sight of God (Heb.4,13). The motto of the school the author attended, translated, was "Work is itself a pleasure." Work is not meant to be drudgery. We should delight to use the skills God has given us in His "bounteous grace." Unfortunately, not everyone has employment that allows this. Perhaps that is why Wesley concludes his hymn with a plea for the ability to "run my course with even joy and closely walk with Thee to heaven." We look for something that will be constant, not given to sudden swings in either direction. But, above all, we ask for the companionship of the Lord himself on the road of life. There is no better friend and there is no better destination.

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