WELS Hymnal Project

Project Blog

Insights, analysis, techniques, opinions, and experiences from the team behind the WELS Hymnal Project.

 

Thank you to all those who took the time to share their thoughts on "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less." We hope you enjoy hearing a recording of this hymn and seeing some of the comments that we received. We also thank the members of Koiné for giving us permission to use their recording.

Next week we'll feature another hymn from the list of Fifty Favorite Hymns: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (Christian Worship #200/201).

Silhouetted on a frightening sky, unmanned ropes whip wildly from each of the lost ship’s masts. Helplessly they wrap and unwrap themselves; they tangle and untangle through the night without help. The sails have long been shredded. The timbre of her timbers hammer horror through the hull. Massive crests mount up and climb each side, dwarfing the very ship that once boasted of her might at the harbor. With unsteady surprise, the wind and waves play catch with her, threatening at any moment to cast her aside like an unwanted old toy.

It’s the perfect scene to teach fear - to describe the pounding drum of our worries, the anxious sweat from unfamiliar circumstances, the movable moments of our lives that perplex us when we beg life to just stay the same, the painful memory of our sins.

But it’s an even better scene to teach faith. “When ev’ry earthly prop gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.”

Inside the ship’s belly, the crew communes with unshakable confidence. There are no hopeless huddles here, only relaxed songs and joyous laughter as they rehearse their immovable state: “On Christ, the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Each scream of the storm is met with the peaceful silence in their souls. Every violent quake is answered with unstirred calm because of the Lord. Let the storm rage and flood. Let the gale be high and stormy. Neither sinful conditions nor weather conditions determine confidence in this boat, Christ does.

Dear Christian friends, keep singing this audacious anthem of faith that shines on the darkness, stills the storm of our sins, and ties up every troubled thought. Each verse of this hymn is carried by a tune that rises and falls, yet growing ever higher like surging waves that prepare to overwhelm us. But God has given us repose. In the midst of hopeless destruction, he fills faith’s eyes with his Son. Our answer is Jesus: his blood and righteousness, that is, his active and passive obedience to God the Father for us. The answer is sworn by God and made secure by faith, as the hymn-writer sweeps us to safety in the sentences of Hebrews 6-9 and shouts with us: “his oath, his covenant and blood...” Your answer is anchored in heaven. The refrain returns us to the security of the solid Rock, no matter the storm that surrounds us.

Let us then fix our eyes on Jesus and be the merry crew that worships in the nave!1


  1. The nave is the main area of a sanctuary where the congregation sits and worships. It comes from the Latin navis, meaning ship. ↩︎

 

Thank you to all those who took the time to share their thoughts on, "Abide with Me." We hope you enjoy hearing a recording of this hymn and seeing some of the comments that we received.

Next week we'll feature another hymn from the list of Fifty Favorite Hymns: "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less" (Christian Worship #382).

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!

When has God helped you? When has he carried you because you couldn’t do it yourself? Through what trial in your life has God brought you? “Abide with Me” is a favorite hymn because of its comforting message that God is with us. This comforting message has perhaps been used at the funeral of a loved one. The text very clearly and reassuringly reminds us that our Lord is with us at all times, even until and beyond earthly death. Each of the verses serves as a petition. Each describes times when we ask God to abide with us:

  1. When we need help; the way is dark...Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.
  2. When joy is gone...Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.
  3. When we seek comfort and forgiveness...Come not in terrors, as the King of kings.
  4. When we were young and foolish...Thou on my head in early youth didst smile.
  5. When we were tempted....I need thy presence every passing hour.

Yes, at all these times and many more, dear God, abide with us.

Yet, when verse six arrives, there is reason to sing just a bit more boldly. Read the third line: “Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?” Do you punch those words of the verse a bit more forcefully when you sing with the congregation? Do you think of the triumphant words of 1 Corinthians 15? Do you think about Jesus’ victory on the cross? Sing the text more loudly. Sing the melody more confidently. Be bold; sing the tenor line harmony that rises and hits its high point just when the text rebukes the sting of death and the grave. Sing because Jesus has triumphed and we have too.

I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if thou abide with me.

The final line of the final stanza of the hymn summarizes the previous six and points toward heaven. “In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!” When you sing these final words, how do you sing them? Do you sing the commas, allowing the text to take center stage? Do you emphasize each of those brief phrases? Do you put space between the notes, reminding yourself and others that your God has never left you in life and he will not leave you in death? “In life. In death. O Lord. Abide with me!” That is our petition, and that is his promise.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!

Jonathan Niemi
Communications Committee

Words and Music: Keith Getty and Stuart Townend © 2002 Thankyou Music, admin. worldwide at CapitolCMGPublishing.com (excl. Europe admin. by Kingswaysongs); used by permission.

 

Thank you to all those who took the time to share their thoughts on, "In Christ Alone." We hope you enjoy hearing a recording of this hymn and seeing some of the comments that we received.

Next week we'll feature another hymn from the list of Fifty Favorite Hymns: "Abide with Me" (Christian Worship #588).