Words or music? Music or words?

Sometimes the melody is all it takes to move my heart into the heart of God (or God’s heart into mine). Though I love to sing the words of this hymn and make them real by my actions, it is the melody which both embraces me and sends me heavenward.

Continuing the conversation begun on Sunday (9/25) “Be thou my vision” is the song I share today:

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
all else be nought to me, save that thou art;
thou my best thought, by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
thou my great Father; thine own may I be;
thou in me dwelling, and I one with thee.

High King of heaven, when victory is won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, bright heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Hymn 488 in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982

Words: Irish, ca. 700; versified Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880–1931); tr. Eleanor H. Hull (1860–1935), alt.

Music: Slane, Irish ballad melody; adapt. The Church Hymnary, 1927; harm. David Evans (1874–1948)


I mean to be one too

What hymns or songs or music help you “have the mind of Christ” that the Apostle wants you to have? (Philippians 2:1-13) It doesn’t even have to be “sacred music” that inspires you. Where does this question (and invitation to share) come from?

In yesterday’s Forum (9/25/11) we listened to Paul: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:3-5) We listened to the Spirit and we listened to each other. We wondered:

How do you do know the mind of Christ? How do you live with the mind (intentionality) of Christ?

Among the answers, affirming what Paul says—“it is God who is at work in you” (v. 13)—we agreed to a person that we know the mind of Christ and we live revealing Christ, by the grace of God: grace encountered in prayer and worship, grace encountered in serving others for the love of God, grace encountered in personal and communal study like this one.

Paul, according to most biblical scholars, quotes from a hymn (vv. 6-11) to help his readers understand “the mind of Christ.” In the next few days I will share some of the hymns that help me understand the mind of Christ and help me renew my dedication to live my life with the mind of Christ.

I invite you to share hymns and songs and even music—from ancient to contemporary, secular or sacred—that help you know the mind of Christ and act with the mind of Christ.

Today’s hymn for me: “I sing a song of the saints of God” (Hymn 293 in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982). Playful, an easy melody (for me), a celebration recalling that “the saints of God are just folk like me,” and a grace-filled dedication to send me on— “and I mean to be one too” —make this one of my favorites and puts me in mind of the Apostle’s teaching.

I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green:
they were all of them saints of God and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right, for Jesus’ sake,
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there’s not any reason no, not the least,
why I shouldn’t be one too.

They lived not only in ages past,
there are hundreds of thousands still,
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.

Words:        Lesbia Scott (1898–1986), alt.
Music:        Grand Isle, John Henry Hopkins (1861–1945)