We have arrived at one of the most frequently requested hymns on my list for this year. I don’t suppose that the reason for this is a great mystery – it is a hymn so familiar, with words that bring real comfort and assurance. Written in 1923 by Thomas O. Chisholm, it tells of God’s faithfulness throughout a lifetime. These are words that speak to the magnitude of the Divine. I love that it unapologetically requires me to consider something greater than myself.
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
There were quite a few stories and comments accompanying the requests for this one. A number of people mentioned that this had been sung at a funeral of someone close to them. Some shared that certain words brought tears. Some felt it provided a glimpse into the character of God. It definitely carries with it meaning and memories that are evoked whenever it is sung or heard.
It happens to be Mennonite Heritage Sunday this week and I thought it would be appropriate to ponder something that reminded me of where I come from. Something that brings up memories of lives lived under the canopy of this great faithfulness. While not a Mennonite hymn per se, this is one of my father’s favourites, and one he also put on my list. Now, I should share that I come from a long line of hymn lovers. Both my father and his father before him, were musicians who actively participated in church music and were involved in compiling hymns for several new hymn books. In fact, my grandfather was also a collector of hymn books – probably in the neighbourhood of 600! My husband’s fondest memory of him is being shown his tiny closet of a computer room where for the last five years of his life he entered more than 13,000 song titles and melodies into a data base as a record of all these hymns of faith that he obviously cared for deeply. Music is a gift I was given by those who came before me. It has been, and will always be, my inheritance.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
As I’ve worked on this hymn, I have thought about this gift of music . It came to me through the family I was born into, through the church I was raised in. These hymns may mean something different to me than they did to my grandfather, but they provide a solid foundation on which I stand. These songs were valued. Deeply. The music, the words, the assurance, the comfort. Memories. Heritage.
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.