Good day to you fair song talkers! I'm so appreciative to those of you that have dove into the waters of this blog. It has been a relatively fun experiment that turned into a staple of my week. Ruminating on some of these songs has been immensely helpful to me in preparing for worship, humbling in how God has used them to encourage me, and eye-opening in Him using people's experiences to create moments of worship for the global church.
Today there is an interesting connection between two songs we will be singing in the 9:30 service. About a month ago I asked Dr. Hemphill if there were any songs that we have done since he has been here, that he really enjoyed. I explained we would be happy to include them in his last service with us this weekend. After a few text messages back and forth we landed on two hymns. One we had done as an orchestra feature a few times and one we haven't sung since I've been at Second, and probably that most of us haven't sung in a long time.
The first requested song is "A Mighty Fortress is Our God". This is Dr. Hemphill's favorite hymn and rightfully so as it beautifully celebrates the sovereign power of God over all earthly and spiritual forces, and reminds us of the sure hope we have in him because of Christ. This hymn written by Martin Luther sometime between 1527 and 1529 became the festal cry of the German Protestant Reformation and was sung in churches, homes, and fields as a cry of worship to a Holy God. Luther only wrote approximately 36 hymns, but has graced us with many volumes of written works and commentaries on Holy Scripture.
The second song requested came from Paula Hemphill is "And Can it Be" written by Charles Wesley in the 1738. Contrary to Luther, Wesley wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 hymns. This one in particular came only days after his true conversion to Christ. This is where the story gets interesting in the selection of these two particular hymns. Wesley had been struggling in his relationship with the Lord. His doubt of his salvation had reached an apex. He began to see the futility of a works based salvation. A friend handed him a copy of none other than Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians! Perhaps he read this:
"With Paul we absolutely deny the possibility of self merit. God never yet gave to any person grace and everlasting life as a reward for merit. The opinions of the papists are the intellectual pipe-dreams of idle pates, that serve no other purpose but to draw men away from the true worship of God. The papacy is founded upon hallucinations.
The true way of salvation is this. First, a person must realize that he is a sinner, the kind of a sinner who is congenitally unable to do any good thing. "Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin." Those who seek to earn the grace of God by their own efforts are trying to please God with sins. They mock God, and provoke His anger. The first step on the way to salvation is to repent.
The second part is this. God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we may live through His merit. He was crucified and killed for us. By sacrificing His Son for us God revealed Himself to us as a merciful Father who donates remission of sins, righteousness, and life everlasting for Christ's sake. God hands out His gifts freely unto all men. That is the praise and glory of His mercy." Luther on Galatians 2:15-16.
Wesley became gloriously converted to Christ and penned the words of this great hymn. Two hundred years apart these two men delivered to us two great hymns and are connected in God's sovereignty by this great story. Let's sing this week of God's goodness to our church in the Hemphill's ministry and give the Lord praise and glory for his gift of salvation.
Check out 9:30 playlist here.
Check out 11:00 playlist here.