My copy of the United Methodist Hymnal is special to me. It is a well-worn book, because of how much I use it in the preparation of worship and in my own life. There are red dots that mark beloved songs. There are scribbles throughout several pages where Noah has offered his own edits. For instance, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” has something like a rest note written over two stanzas.
What I love the most about our hymnal is it is the music of our collective souls. There are songs throughout the book that take me back to important moments in my faith journey and ministry. When we sing these songs, I’m often reminded of people who have inspired me, guided me, and pointed me towards God’s love.
Some stand out among the rest. I want to share with you what some of my most beloved songs – those songs with the red dots – mean to me.
Here I Am, Lord (593) – If there is one song that serves as the soundtrack for my call story it is this hymn by Dan Schutte. It reminds me of how God desires a willing heart among the Lord’s people to make a difference in this world. When I began to sense God’s calling again to ministry it was this song that was playing in my heart. It still does to this day.
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (57) – This classic Charles Wesley hymn has been the leadoff hymn in Methodist hymnals since 1780. It reminds me of the Offerings community in Lexington. This campus of First UMC had this song as its regular rotation for the praise band. It is a beautiful reminder of how the entire church global comes together to praise God.
Lord of the Dance (261) – What amazes me about this song is, like many others in our hymnal, is its use of a contemporary melody to add a worshipful nature to the music. The music comes from a Shaker song “Simple Gifts.” In this song, the joy of a gift is connected to the relationship of the Triune God in a beautiful way.
Up from the Grave He Arose (322) – This classic Easter hymn takes me to the back rows of Perry Memorial UMC and trying hard to not sing “Up from the gravy he arose.” I’m certain I would get some looks from my family if I managed to say gravy. Still today, it is a favorite hymn because of its joyous celebration of the Resurrection.
And Can it Be that I Should Gain (363) – It is the Methodist fight song! Well, really it is just the Asbury Theological Seminary fight song, but it really should be our movement’s song that moves us out of the pews and into our communities. That is because this song gets to the heart of faith. How amazing it is that God would give of himself for us! That is what this powerful Charles Wesley song is all about.
My life would not be the same without these songs. I give thanks to God for them.