Singing Saints

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name” Psalm 30:4

Lutherans have been called “the singing church” and it’s true.  I can’t imagine worship without singing.  One visitor to our church told me, “you have a lot of audience participation!”  Well, we’re not meant to be an audience because worship isn’t a performance and yes, it’s all about participation.  The word liturgy literally means “work of the people.”  Songs of praise are part of that work, and it’s a privilege and joy to worship the One who loves and saves us.

The Bible is full of saints who sang.  There was David, of course, author of many of the Psalms (the hymn book of the Old Testament).  Miriam sang after the people crossed the Red Sea, and Deborah sang a victory after defeating the Canaanites.  Mary sang after her meeting with the angel who announced the birth of God’s son, and Simeon sang after seeing that same babe who had been promised.

There are many reasons saints sing, but most often their songs flow out of the joy and happiness of life with God.  One Christian song that comes to my mind as I write this is His Eye Is On the Sparrow.  Here’s the story of how that hymn by Civilla Martin  came to be written:

                                                                                                            “Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheelchair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s response was simple: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience.”

The next day she mailed the poem to composer, Charles Gabriel, who wrote the tune for it.  Sing along with this beautiful piece because you’re happy to be a child of the King.

 

 

 

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Saints Gathering Together

In church last Sunday we sang this well-known “Thanksgiving” hymn which speaks to me about the strength we find in gathering together as saints of God.  You may be surprised to learn something about its’ history!  It is actually of Dutch origin and refers religious persecution which occurred long before the first Thanksgiving.  The melody can be traced back to 1597.  It began as a folk song but was transformed into a hymn dealing with overcoming religious persecution on January 24th 1597.  That was the date of the Battle of Turnhout, in which Prince Maurice of Orange defeated the Spanish occupiers of a town in what is now the Netherlands.  At this point, the Dutch Protestants, who were prohibited from worshiping under the Spanish king, Phillip II, celebrated the victory by borrowing the familiar folk melody and giving it new words.  “We Gather Together” connoted a heretofore forbidden act—Dutch Protestants gathering together for worship.  It first appeared in print in a 1626 collection of Dutch patriotic songs.  Listen to the words and give thanks for the blessings we receive when we gather together.

Another Saint Song

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” Philippians 3:17

The text of this hymn was written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826). It was composed while he was Anglican archbishop of Calcutta, India, from 1823 to 1826 for St. Stephen’s Day, a religious holiday observed by the Anglican Church, and published posthumously in an 1827 collection of Heber’s poems entitled Hymns written and adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year. The tune (All Saints New) was composed for this text by Henry Stephen Cutler, who was born Oct. 13, 1825 in Boston, MA. After studying organ with A. U. Hayter in Boston, he went to Europe in 1844 to continue his studies in Frankfurt am Main.  While there, he visited many English cathedrals and became familiar with their style of music. Returning to Boston in 1846, he became music director at Grace Episcopal Church.

It speaks of the army of saints, past and present who follow Jesus.  I find it a powerful reminder that we are not alone in the Christian walk, we join our brothers and sisters, past and present, as well as Jesus Christ our head.

I Want to Be in that Number

“Blessed are they who do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” -Revelation 22:14

The origins of this black spiritual are unclear, but it was popularized when Louis Armstrong recorded it in 1938.  In the New Orleans tradition of a “jazz funeral”  it is often used as a dirge to accompany the casket to the grave.  Our month on saints would not be complete without giving it a listen.  Imagine yourself entering God’s heavenly kingdom as one of company of saints!  Don’t you want to be in that number?

 

 

For All the Saints

A month on the saints wouldn’t be complete without this favorite All Saint’s Day hymn.  Written by Bishop William Walsham How (1823-1897), the lyrics are based on the great cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 12:1. Since I have taken this as my life verse, it’s not surprising that I love this song.  I hope our readers will, too.

One In Mission

I found this newer hymn in With One Voice.  It was written in 1985 by Rusty Edwards, a Lutheran pastor, and expresses a modern vision of the unity and gifting of the church.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same LORD. 6There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Corinthians 12 4-5

Listen and enjoy.

 

Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ

We haven’t had a song this month yet, and I was having a hard time thinking of one that dealt with spiritual gifts.  Looking through With One Voice in church this week I found this one.  If you haven’t heard it before, I think you’ll love the lively calypso beat.  It will inspire you to use your gifts to spread God’s Word.l