A great opening hymn for worship expresses confidence that God is near. What is this place brings the reality of God into our midst and declares that God is among us and cares for us when we are gathered together.
Our church meets outside in the parking lot during the pandemic. We sing outside and conduct our worship services on the pavement next to the building. We’ve grown used to this pattern, and many of us like the outdoors for worship each week.
In one of these recent worship services, the phrase “…and know our God is near” impacted me in an assuring way. Despite a global struggle with a virus, conflicts in society and the world, and uncertainty about the future, we rest assured that “our God is near.”
We can be confident in God’s nearness and know that where we meet, whether in a church sanctuary or outside or online, that God is around us and supporting our lives. When we meet, we become a body that lives and breathes Holy Spirit power and courage, and we leave knowing that God is near.
At a large family reunion in Montezuma, Georgia, in early August 2021, my relatives sang, “This is the day that the Lord has made.” Over two hundred attended the reunion, and folks from many walks of life knew the lyrics from memory. My paternal family came from numerous U.S. states and several countries in Central and South America.
“This is the day” first emerged in the late 1960s and since then has become a very familiar Scripture song. I sang it as a teenager in church and youth group in the early 1970s. The song has endless variations for singing and is easy to accompany with a guitar.
During a Saturday morning reunion in the red soil of central Georgia, our family reunion members took time to sing songs and listen to a devotional. The chorister chose “this is the day” for the first of four songs that we offered to the Lord from memory.
I may never forget the rich four-part a capella harmonies, the enthusiasm of hearing soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, and the meaning carried from the ancient psalmist to our time. Three millennia after a poet wrote Psalm 118:24, we Yoders in Montezuma, Georgia, confessed our assurance in God’s love and sustaining grace through the familiar lyrics of “this is the day that the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.”
We sang Blessed Assurance as our opening song at church yesterday. Rich four-part a cappella harmonies, the swelling chorus, and the realities of life all combined to make the song a highlight of my entire worship service.
Give me a good hymn or song in a Sunday worship service, and it can carry me through the week. As author Fanny Crosby wrote in 1873, “this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”
We sang Blessed Assurance from the 2020 Voices Together hymnal. I was glad to see guitar chords added. I played the chords, and they work nicely with the tune. The editors changed one word in Crosby’s public domain hymn, which helps the text, I think.
May we rest this week on God’s blessed assurances. I will sing of God’s story in my life, accepting the heavenly delights of good music to give me a “foretaste of glory divine.”