Wednesday, December 30, 2020

"O For a Thousand Tongues"

Way back in January 2016, I was working to create a modernized arrangement of the Public Domain hymn, "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" by Charles Wesley.  I'd hope to preserve the original melody and lyrics, and maybe just add a bridge or something.  I ended up adding a sort of bridge for each stanza.  Unfortunately, while I was really happy with my additions, they never really paired well with the feel of the original hymn.  So I shelved the idea, revisiting it from time to time over the years in further failed attempts to shoehorn together two incompatible ideas.

On June 30, 2020, however, I gave up trying to make fit what never would, and instead restructured the whole song around my additions.  I heavily edited the original hymn lyric and melody while still trying to preserve the essence of what it said.  After all, to wish that one had a thousand tongues to sing God's praise all the louder is a beautiful sentiment!  So that, as well as the general message of the hymn's stanzas, remain the core of what is now essentially a brand new song.

As I intend to share the song with my local church, I needed to whip up a demo of it.  Last night I spent about an hour tracking acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass guitar.  After my son Aidan finished watching a movie with his friends, I asked him to come upstairs and lay down a drum track.  Then this morning, I was able to get my wife Amy in front of a microphone to track the lead vocals, with me laying down some harmonies immediately thereafter.

The result of those three-and-a-half hours of recording and mixing are available on my SoundCloud page:

I've licensed the song under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.  And as part of my commitment to reducing barriers to adoption for music truly written for the church (rather than for a paycheck), I've posted the sheet music for the song to my GitHub repository.

And here are the lyrics for the song:

O For a Thousand Tongues All-gracious Master, glorious God, Give me the words to proclaim. Spread thru the whole earth, here and abroad, The honor of Your holy name. Father, You give me the choice, But Your grace compels me to lift up my voice. If I was mute, I'd still make joyful noise to Thee. O, for a thousand tongues to sing! Jesus, your name calms the deepest of fears. You bid every sorrow to cease. Your mercy is music in this sinner's ears— Your love is the source of my peace. Savior, You knew all along That you'd trade perfection for all I'd do wrong. Lord, may my life make a beautiful song to Thee. O, for a thousand tongues to sing! O, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise! Sing of the glories of my King; the triumph of His grace! Jesus you've broken the power of sin. Your blood sets the prisoners free. Dying you saved us, then rising again Accomplished supreme victory! O, for a thousand tongues to sing our great Redeemer's praise! Sing of the glories of our King; the triumph of His grace! Your church in heav'n and earth below, this sacrifice we bring! O, for a thousand tongues to sing. O, for a thousand tongues to sing. O, for a thousand tongues to sing. Spirit of God, fill this place. Write on our hearts songs of mercy and grace. Oh, God, we're desperate to give every praise to Thee. O, for a thousand tongues to sing! O, for a thousand tongues to sing! O, for a thousand tongues to sing!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Ambassadors for Christ?

Ugh. Today, besides feeling physically subpar (hello, tick bite!), I feel spiritually defiled. In a moment of weakness and morbid curiosity, I made the mistake of reading some of the Facebook feeds of a handful of people in my church. I think we might have a problem.

The Word of God tells Christians that they are citizens of a new kind of Kingdom. This Kingdom is not one with physical, geographical boundaries, a two-party political system, checks and balances, and a (merely) 200-year-old governing document. It's God's Kingdom, existing outside the physical Universe and governed by God Himself:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. [Phillippians 3:20-21 ESV]
One cool thing is that when we become citizens of that Kingdom, God leaves us in place, planted in the physical realm to serve His purposes. Our job? To be His ambassadors:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. [2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV]
But as I read post after hate-filled post on Facebook, it became crystal clear to me that either the Kingdom has fewer citizens than I'd hoped, or those citizens grossly misunderstand their roles as ambassadors. Were I to judge by what I saw (and have heard), I would calculate that "ambassador for Christ" has come to mean "culture warrior". We Christians line up on political, sociological, idealogical, racial, or any other "-al" line we can find, dig in our heels, crane our necks and bend our ears for the sound of the charge!

What if we revisit the idea of ambassador-ship with a new objective: to make—by our every word, thought, and deed—the Kingdom of heaven and the God who governs it so glorious and attractive that its opponents simply emigrate to it. No need for blood shed. No anger. No insults. Just love and faithful representationambassadorshipof the King of Kings.