Friday, 26 August 2011

A Hymn for all seasons

Travelling back from seeing two of my boys on the south coast I started to think about how my life can be expressed in the hymns I have sung. At each stage of my life a hymn has become a favourite and has had something very special from God in it. It seems that God speaks to me through hymns and sung worship almost as much as through His word in the Bible.
As a young child I went weekly to Sunday School and was always thrilled when invited to choose a hymn to sing. My favourite was Hold the Fort for I am coming ( probably because the tune seemed livelier to me than many other of the hymns we sang. However the central message of the hymn, to be patient and persevere is a message that has stuck with me throughout my life. Then as I became a teenager I sang in the church choir. We sang many hymns and sacred music but the one that came to be very special to me at that time was Thou didst leave thy throne, and thy kingly crown (// There was strong and strange yearning in my heart as I knelt and sang "O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee." But it would be ac ouple of years before I understood what the words meant and what relevance they had to my own life. then as a 17 year old I attended a friends baptism. I had for a few months been talking to friends about what it meant to be a Christian and had written a letter to a friend at uni the day before in which i told him that I knew I wasn't a christian but didn't understand what I needed to do to become one- one of the problems being a deep sense of not being good enough. then at my friends baptism the preacher spoke about how non of us are good enough to come to god and we can only be made clean by what Jesus did. It was one of those occasions when it seems the preacher was speaking only to me. At the end of the sermon there was an altar call and I responded. not caring what school friends might think of me. As I went forward the congregation sang what was anew hymn to me but one which became and remains very special- And can it be? ( As they sang " I rose went forth and followed thee, I made a declaration that I would always follow Jesus. It was a decision I have never regretted and has led 34 years later to where I am now. For years that hymn would be sung at special events and each time I'm back in that baptist church handing my life back to God.
A year later I went to college to train to teach and learnt many new songs but for a long time And can it be remained my special hymn. Then as I married and started to raise my children a new one became extremely imnportanr to me- Great is thy faithfulness. ( This hymn spoke so often to me of the love and faithfulness of God as I struggled particularly when my first husband left me. The words became my prayer especially the last verse-
3.Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! I knew trhe strength of God in every situation and He kept me close to His side through all the pain and struggles.
Then cam the day when I felt God calling me to ordained ministry. I'd wanted to serve God all my life and always served in the church where ever I could but this was something else. As I prayed in the morning service the Rector prayed for God to call men and women to serve Him as ordained priests. Something began to grow in my heart that morning, a desire to say yes and do what ever God wanted me to do. As the day went on I became more and more excited at the prospect and more and more daunted as I thought about what it would mean as a divorcee with thee boys at home. That evening in church we sang what to me was a new hymn-
( The rector invited us to remain sitting as we sang it until we felt we could say yes to the questions being asked. I was soon on my feet saying yes God, I'll follow you and do all that you are asking me to. I loved the last verse, Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’II go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’II move and live and grow
in you and you in me.
Not long after I also learnt the song
I the Lord of Sea and Sky- with its refrain which I didn't realise until a week ago actually says Is it I Lord?- I sang it as It is I Lord. I never wanted to question what God wanted me to do. ( These two hymns were my prayers as I journeyed along the road to selection conference and on to theological college.
And now - in a place where we sing at least 3 hymns a day and where we are encouraged not to choose a hymn that has been sung in the term already- I have sung many songs and began to wonder which one means most to me at this time. Obviously many of those I have already mentioned are sung regularly and are still very meaningful. But the one that seems to resonate most with me at the moment is Lord for the years.( Perhaps because more than anything I am so grateful to God for the way he has led me and held me through so much. It speaks of just where my heart is at this time.
As I have written this post I have played the hymns on the computer and loved everyone all over again. It has been wonderful to remember how much God means to me in the music His people have written to express their own praise.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am sure you are correct in your thinking about hymns and worship songs: they not only reflect our thoughts but also, I suggest to a large extent, shape our theology (or, at least, those we hear or sing frequently do).

    That's why I'm pleased to see a new trend appearing from the likes of Geoffrey Birtle: setting scripture to song. Although, and this is just my own opinion, none of the one's I've heard recently have the "Ishmael" factor; who can forget the simple tune to "Jesus said, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to that sycamore tree: be uprooted and planted on the sea." or another all-time favourite, "My God shall supply all my needs"?