A highlight of my Thanksgiving season was an instrumental and vocal rendition of the nineteenth-century hymn of praise that acknowledges God’s sustaining grace that comes from the very earth itself. For the beauty of the earth begins with praise to God for sustenance that comes to us through nature.
A trio of stringed musicians began the worship service in a rural church with this lovely song on Thanksgiving morning. The chorus soars with an accolade of praise to God: “Lord of all to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.
For an hour, in spoken word, in a video feed from two speakers and congregational songs, we gave thanks to God for bringing us through the year. The writer of the lyrics, Pierpoint, acknowledges the joy of human love for friends on earth and friends above.
After I spoke briefly of my thankfulness for friends, the service ended with the same song we began with: “For the beauty of the earth.” The last verse praises God for the church that lifts holy hands above, offering up on every shore her pure sacrifice of love. A fitting end to a glorious Thanksgiving Day morning worship service.
Yesterday I preached the morning sermon at a Mennonite church in Hartville, Ohio. That’s the town where I grew up. They’ve asked me to write a history book about the congregation.
At the end of the worship service, we sang, “We will follow, we will follow Jesus, we will follow everywhere he goes.” A simple Zimbabwean traditional tune, the song gave congregants the chance to affirm our desire to be followers of Christ.
The message was entitled “Called to Remember,” and I used Exodus 17:14 for my thoughts. Moses had been called to write down Israel’s stories in order to remember them.
I won’t soon forget the simple affirmation and conclusion in song after I preached. With instruments and congregational voices, we affirmed that we want to follow Jesus everywhere he goes.
The first song we sang in worship yesterday morning was “O Worship the King.” I traveled to a remote town on the western Virginia border, near West Virginia, to a small church to preach the morning sermon for them.
We began with the early nineteenth-century lyrics from Robert H. Grant, used countless times in opening worship. And rightly so. The lyrics soar and invite the singer and those in worship to enter into the very presence of God.
God is our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise. Some twenty folks in that small church yesterday morning lifted their voices in praise, surrounded by the hills of western Virginia, nestled back in a little-traveled region of the state.
In our singing, we told of God’s might, we sang of God’s grace, we celebrated God’s bountiful care. Finally, we proclaimed that in God we do trust, nor find Him to fail; God’s mercies how tender, how firm to the end, our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend!
An anonymous hymn writer from the early 1800s calls us to unite in the singing of God’s incredible love. Come, let us all unite to sing, the writer begins, and praise the blessings of God’s love.
Yesterday we began our outdoor covid worship service on the church parking lot with this great hymn. We couldn’t hear others much because we were outside and it was cold. Nevertheless, we sang of God’s incredible love, a good place to begin any worship service.
The unknown hymn-writer acknowledges our human condition, our sinful nature, and our dependence on the divine. We are mortals, the song reveals, and we are best to sing in the glory and wonder and strength of God’s good love.
The last verse begins with an affirmation of our good condition here, on this planet. The promises of God our spirits cheer, and we rest in the sun and shield of God’s care. God is our help, our hope, and our stay. Let us sing of God’s love today!
One of my favorite hymns comes from lyrics penned by Robert Robinson in 1758. A British songwriter, Robinson’s “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” became popularized by an American folk tune known as “Nettleton.”
A catchy and much-loved tune, the lyrics have survived for two-and-a-half centuries because they convey vibrant theological and Biblical themes and because they express a heart language of faith toward a merciful God who sustains, keeps, and protects those who trust in Him.
Just as a strong creek or river channels water for centuries and even millennia, so have God’s streams of mercy sustained and nurtured those who put their trust in God.
Joseph Funk included Come Thou Fount in his Mennonite Hymn Book of 1847, an English language songbook created in Singers Glen, Va. In the first edition of Genuine Church Music of 1832, later known as Harmonia Sacra, Funk included the much-loved hymn. Most hymnals today include the favorite gospel song. Our prayer should always be, “Come thou fount of every blessing, tune our hearts to sing thy grace.”