Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (Week 4)

This is the fourth in my series looking at thirty amazing hymns and songs of the Christian faith. I made three lists, one of my top 10 from the Moravian Church's tradition, one of my top 10 of the great classic hymns, and a top 10 of more "Gospel-type" hymns and songs. I am doing it alphabetically to be fair to all the songs. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.

When choosing videos to accompany the hymns I try to choose ones that best capture the spirit of the song as it has been important to me. I obviously stick to the traditional and best known tunes in the case where alternate tunes might be used.

Moravian Hymns
Jesus Still Lead On- Nicholas von Zinzendorf (1721)

Another hymn by Zinzendorf. He was 21 years old when he wrote this one and it shows the influence of the Pietist movement that he was steeped in. Even as a nobleman, he was willing to follow his faith and Lord. Spener, the father of Pietism, was his godfather; and Franke, the founder of the famous Orphan House, in Halle, was for several years his tutor. (Link) He wrote over 2000 hymns between age 12 and the day of his death just shy of his 60th birthday. Many of these are not noteworthy. But some, such as this one, are filled with a faith and hope beyond his years.

Jesus still lead on
Till our rest be won;
And although the way be cheerless,
We will follow calm and fearless;
Guide us by your hand
To our fatherland.

If the way be drear,
If the foe be near,
Let no faithless fears overtake us,
Let not faith and hope forsake us;
Safely past the foe
To our home we go.

When we seek relief
From a long felt grief,
When temptations come alluring,
Make us patient and enduring;
Show us that bright shore
Where we weep no more.

So I went looking for a video. I didn't find anything that attracted me. Then I saw a large number of versions under the original German title, Jesu Geh Voran including one from an Orthodox church as well as others. I chose this one since it captures the Moravian trombone choir aspect of how the hymn would be played chorale-style even though there are added flourishes between the phrases.

Great Hymns of the Church
How Great Thou Art- Carl Gustav Boberg (1885)

What is most likely the second best known and best loved hymn, How Great Thou Art started as a poem by Gustav Boberg in Swedish. It was first translated into English in 1925 with the title, O Mighty God. There have been various translations in different hymnals over the years, partly due to copyright and extremely high licensing fees. It became widely known and popular in the 1960s and 70s surpassing many older hymns in popularity. In my experience it became one of the most common hymns people requested at funerals.

To some degree based on Psalm 8, Boberg had this to say about it's composition:
It was that time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon there was thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared.

When I came home I opened my window toward the sea. There evidently had been a funeral and the bells were playing the tune of 'When eternity's clock calls my saved soul to its Sabbath rest.' That evening, I wrote the song, 'O Store Gud.' (Wikipedia)
I had the hymn sung as an anthem at my ordination in 1974 and it remains one of my favorite hymns, calling me to remember the wonders of the world around me- and the way I have been called into God's service and presence in all I do.

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.


And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then shall I bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!"

I chose another instrumental for this hymn, too. It is a hymn that is way too easily made corny and schmaltzy (in my opinion, anyway.) This is a beautiful arrangement that avoids that, I think. Sing the words to yourself and enjoy.

Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
His Eye is on the Sparrow- Civilla D. Martin (1905)

According to Wikipedia, Civilla Martin, who wrote the lyrics, said about her inspiration to write the song based on the scriptures:
  • "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26) and "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29–31):
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 wheel chair. 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 reply 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.
Actress-singer Ethel Waters used the title for her autobiography and Mahalia Jackson's recording of the song was honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2010.

Why should I feel discouraged and why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion, a constant Friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

Chorus: I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled; these tender words I hear;
And resting on his goodness I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted; whenever clouds arise;
When songs give place to sighing; when hope within me dies;
I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.


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