Those are two words that are starting to reemerge more these days. This Worship Wednesday is dedicated to Hymns. A lot of us who grew up in the church remember singing hymns from an old red, blue, or brown book situated in a mount on the back of a pew. Those books brought and continue to bring us hymns of praise like “Amazing Grace, How Sweet The Sound”, “How Great Thou Art”, and “The Old Rugged Cross.”
The Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) movement has redefined how worship happens in a lot of churches and has reached a lot of non-believers for Christ. While some CCM songs pay tribute to hymns by recalling an old chorus, there is the argument in the Christian community that CCM has left behind rich and meaningful lyrics, making way for a Me-focused simplicity.
There is an amazing middle ground that is making itself known in Christian music – “Retuned Hymns.” Mainstream artists like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and David Crowder, among many others, are bringing hymns back to the mainstream with new choruses added on, or in their original form. What you may not know is that there are several artists out there (Indelible Grace Music, Sandra McCracken, Essential Songs, Matt Hammitt & Bethany Dillon) who are going through the old hymn books and bringing hymns back to life with a new melodies and more modern arrangements.
One of my favorite retuned hymns is by Sandra McCracken, called “Jesus The Lord My Savior Is” found on her album, The Builder And The Architect (2005).
Jesus the Lord, my Savior, is
My shepherd and my God
My light, my strength, my joy, my bliss
And I his grace record.
Whate’er I need in Jesus dwells,
and there it dwells in me.
‘Tis Christ my earthen vessel fills
with treasures rich and free.
McCracken delivers this song with such an amazingly broken, worshipful tone. It is that tone that brings these words of praise to life. The words are a poetic style from a time long past, which amazes me, because as you read the words, you understand that Christ’s love and presence is ongoing and eternal. The whole purpose of this hymn, as seen in these two verses, is to affirm and declare who Jesus Christ is, where he resides in us, and to express worship and gratitude for his gift of grace.
Christ’s message of love and grace is the most important message we need to hear, probably the most important in our lives.
I’d like to share a personal note. When I renewed my relationship with Christ and began to grow in that relationship, it was in a church that had contemporary worship. Because it was so exciting and amazing to know Christ, I started to avoid the church music I grew up with. As I’ve gotten to know those old hymns again, I have a greater understanding of those words. More importantly, those words are evidence of deeply rooted faith in Christ, sacrifice, and perseverance (think of the words to “It Is Well”).
The more we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, it becomes clear that even with all that life has in store for us, the successes, failures, struggles, and perseverance, we learn more and more we need Christ to be on this journey with us. We need to worship outwardly, with an attitude that we are exuding the fullness of praise from our hearts.
This past weekend I got to play piano for a Hymn Sing at a house show. It was pretty awesome, because it was predominantly a gathering of young adults who are completely fired up about retuned hymns. We sang a few in their original form and then a few re-tuned. The thing that blew me away was the sound of 60+ people in a house singing these songs at the top of their lungs. It was deafening in the best possible way, so much that I couldn’t even hear what I was playing, and I didn’t care. I walked away from that hymn sing completely psyched up about being around other people who love Jesus Christ. It was amazing, and it was amazing Worship.
I’d like to give a shout-out to retuned hymn gurus Sandra McCracken and Rachel Wilhelm. Thank you for letting God use you to lead me into His presence at a Hymn Sing in someone’s house on a Saturday night.
Check out this retuned hymn from Sandra McCracken, “Jesus The Lord My Savior Is”, and comment below.