Friday, July 6, 2018

"Refresh thy people on their toilsome way."

Hymn: “God of Our Fathers” – Daniel C. Roberts (1841-1907)

Although considered a patriotic hymn and usually included in that section of most hymnals, except for one line (“in this free land by thee our lot is cast”), the remainder of the hymn is about the Almighty God of our forefathers… having bless-ed little to do with patriotism. It is in every way a prayer-hymn with a few allusions to our being people of freedom secured from war by the strong arm of our Protector.

It's use on Sundays related to patriotic holidays strengthens its impact as a Christian hymn in appreciation for the blessings of living “in this free land.” Some of those national-holiday-related three-day weekends afford us the opportunity to be refreshed… to step away from the toilsome way that provides our monetary income. So the fact that the final stanza begins with that request makes perfectly good sense, don’t you think?

There are other worthwhile entreaties made in this prayer-hymn:
- Be our Ruler, our Guardian, our Guide.
- May your true religion increase in our hearts.
- Let your Word be our law.
- May we choose your paths, making our way in your direction.
- Grant that we might be nourished by your bountiful goodness.
- Fill our lives with godly love and divine grace.
- Eventually lead us from overwhelming darkness to daylight that never ends.

All these petitions lead us back to the hymnline for today: give us refreshment so we can take up the everyday work to which we have committed ourselves.

By his almighty hand, may God make these kinds of provisions in our lives – and may we ever express the glory, laud and praise that alone are due him.

This Hymn Sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
(with patriotic imagery in the video, of course!)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

“Let music swell the breeze. And ring from all the trees sweet freedom’s song.”

Hymn: “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” – Samuel F. Smith (1808-1895)

Long before the term “surround sound” was coined, this hymn-line captured the essence of music coming at you from all directions. We musicians can picture this happening: we can see thousands of staves filled with quavers and semi-quavers swirling through the air, engulfing us with the richness of a great choral or symphonic sound. I personally think Eric Whitacre might be the composer of the sound I audiolize – that’s like visualize, but for sound!

It’s almost like a scene from Walt Disney’s FANTASIA… one of the pleasant, exuberant sections, not one of the scary ones! With a grand flourish, Mickey’s baton pulls sound from every direction: it is a cacophony of pitches, but they all make sense – they “make music.”

In this case, the song is one of freedom. “Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.”* People all around the world from every nation have had their freedom songs… their rallying cry set to music… at various times in their history. Their singing added to their resolve to do something about their incarcerated condition – their confinement to a situation from which there seems to be no escape.

This is a week to cherish our freedom as Americans: that’s why I chose a patriotic hymn. But it’s a time to be concerned for freedom of all God’s people who find themselves enslaved… traded, abused, neglected. Christian people cannot stand by and enjoy their freedom while others have none. Our concern must move us to action.

“Freedom! O Freedom! Freedom is coming, O yes I know.” (Traditional South African Song)

Listen to This Song

* - from the Broadway show LES MISERABLES (listen)

[Disclaimer: I realize this is not really a hymn as such; it is a patriotic song. There is a danger on weeks like this to hoist the flag in front of the cross and to miss the opportunity to worship and be grateful to the One who gave us life and liberty at the same time. So, I'm approaching it from the angle of "God... the Author of liberty" in the final stanza.]

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)