Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:1-2
For the season of Epiphany, I got to pick out the hymns we are singing in church. Much like other times in the liturgical calendar, I was reminded of great songs that I love to sing. The Epiphany themes of light and discipleship are used throughout these musical pieces and I was again amazed at how profound the lyrics are. We are often tempted to sing without even listening to the words. But when we stop to pay attention, the words have an important message for us to hear.
One example is “We are Marching in the Light.” This was the sending hymn and Bobbi McClain convinced me it was necessary to dance a little bit in the aisle as we walked down. As members were singing loudly, I listened to the words because I knew they had something to teach me. What did it mean for me to march, dance, sing, and pray in God’s light? For the other hymns, I also reflected on the fact that Jesus is our light and that he calls us to follow him.
In reality, a lot of these songs speak to the light that we have felt in our lives. This light is what continually calls us into discipleship as a response to the love and grace that we have received. Think of the classic hymn, “This Little Light of Mine.” The lyrics say that Jesus gave me this light and I’m goin’a let it shine everywhere I go. It doesn’t say anything about the special things that I have done or the failures of my life. No, it’s all about what Jesus has done.
There was even a hymn that I put in twice on the calendar because it is so meaningful to me. When I was growing up in Salem, OR, my church repeated a lot of the same songs. There are a few that always make me think of that place. One of them is “Here I Am, Lord.” It talks about the bigness of God but also God’s faithfulness. The lyrics invite the singer to respond to Jesus.
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
Again, though, if you look at the lyrics you will notice who does all of the heavy lifting. Jesus has “borne his people’s pain,” “wept for love of them” and “has set a feast for us.” The words say that we will be given hearts of love to replace our hearts of stone.
Today our nation and world seems especially dark and divided. We have forged hearts of stone instead of opening up our hearts to one another. As we move from the time after Epiphany into Lent, let’s pay attention to the songs of each season and what they have to teach us. To listen to the light that has come down for all people. Then, we can sing those great hymns while knowing that we are asked to respond to Christ present in our world today. Our response though is not a forced one, but rather we can just say, “Here I am, Lord.” Here I am and help me to hold all your people in my heart.
Intern Pastor Jake Shumacher
“Here I Am, Lord” by Dan Schutt © OCP 1981
Used by permission. OneLicense #A-706774