Preparing for Worship – Doug Haney, associate pastor.
Eric Routley was a British hymnologist and hymn writer who wrote, “Hymns are the folk songs of the people of God.” Hymns are those heart-songs that are passed from generation to generation. It doesn’t take much imagination to consider that many of our dearest and finest hymns were sung by our ancestors, our grandmothers and grandfathers and their mothers and fathers.
The solo sung this Sunday is one of those “hymns we love” at Wilshire. I place that phrase in quotes because around here it’s an homage to the long-running Dallas radio show produced by Norvell Slater, who was a member at Wilshire.
The hymn writer Thomas Obadiah Chisholm was born in Kentucky and was born in the mid-19th century. Chisholm had sent a number of his poems to William Runyan, a musician with the Moody Bible Institute and one of the editors of Hope Publishing Company in Chicago. Runyan is the composer of the melody we sing.
George Beverly Shea, the singer of the Billy Graham Crusades, introduced “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” to those attending the evangelistic meetings in Great Britain in 1954. It soon became a favorite.
The chorus of the hymn comes from the book of Lamentations, which is actually a series of five lyric poems. There is no storyline; most of the book is grim — observations on how awful life has become for the Hebrew people, possibly composed by and for the Hebrew people who remained in the land after the nation was defeated and many were carried away into captivity in Babylon. Listen to the anguish and anxiety in these lines:
How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow…
See, O Lord, how distressed I am;
My stomach churns, my heart is wrung within me.
But then, emerging from the hard soil, these verses appear like a blooming flower in the desert (Lamentation 3:22-23):
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
God’s mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your
How remarkable that in the middle of this long list of lament and complaint, there are these words. It’s as if a small crack has formed in this wall of sorrow — and the crack is just big enough to let the light through. May we hear and affirm today once again that God is indeed faithful.