Top Ten Tuesday – Church Hymns
As a lifelong Lutheran, member of the church choir and organist, there are certain hymns that hold a special place in my heart for one reason or another. They are songs I find myself humming on certain occasions or ones that I hope we sing in certain situations. I could make a list of at least 100, and if I added in Christmas songs as well, the list would grow even more (but I’ll save those for later. So, here are my Top Ten Church Hymns (and some bonus at the end)
10. “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” – First of all, what kind of Lutheran would I be if this song didn’t make my top ten. The song, written by Reformation leader Martin Luther in 1529. It has become known as the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation” and the words – as written by Luther so long ago, still hold true today. And, while the hymn is mostly sung on Reformation Day, and not many other Sundays, it is one that never fails to leave me with its powerful message.
9. “In the Garden” – This song hasn’t been on my top favorites for very long. On July 17, 2012, my Grandma Schwinn left her earthly life to join my grandpa, her parents and all of her brothers and sisters in heaven. My grandma was the greenest-thumbed woman I have ever known. She could take the sickliest plant and nurse it back to health. Her house and her garden in spring and summer were always filled with plants. This song, sung at her funeral was the perfect way for us to remember my grandma in song on that day.
8. Amazing Grace – The words of this song, say it all…”Amazing grace-how sweet the sound – That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. ” What powerful words and this hymn, one of the most recognizable in the world is one that I enjoy singing each and every time.
7. What a Friend We Have in Jesus – sometimes a hymn will remind you of a specific person. For me, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” will always remind me of Wilma – a lady at our church. Wilma has a very strong faith. Although she has faced many challenges in her life, including being deaf, she always takes her challenges to God. Any time we sing this hymn in church, we also get a chance to see Wilma sign this hymn for us. The first verse sums up what this hymn means so well – “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear – all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!” If we simply rely on him, he will take care of all of our needs.
6. Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow – the Doxology. This song, sung by our choir on a regular basis is one of my favorites. It is also one that we often sang at Clovia as a prayer before Wednesday dinner. I love the harmonies and the simplicity of the lyrics.
5. Lift High the Cross – This hymn is one that constantly takes me back to when I was younger. It is one of those typical Lutheran hymns that I just love.
4. Sent Forth By God’s Blessing – This is THE song to sing after communion. There was a time when we would sing it almost every Sunday after we had communion. I have had this song memorized for as long as I can remember…no need to open the hymnal (247 in the old hymnal, 643 in the new – not that I need it).
3. Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus – This is a song that has such a special memory for me, but it is also one that is hard for me too. When I was growing up, my baby-sitter Mary Ann Prusiner was like another grandma to me. She and her husband, Mike, were such a part of my life. Sometimes, after lunch and before he had to head to work, Mike would sing some songs – one of his favorites was to sing “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” but to change it to say “Stand Up, Stand Up for (insert name).” A few years ago, Mary Ann was diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s…which was difficult for me to take. This song, always reminds me of them and the words are ones that really mean a lot, especially the last verse…”Stand up, stand up for Jesus; the strive will not be long ;this day the din of battle, the next the victor’s song. The soldier’s overcoming, their crown of life shall see and with the King of Glory shall reign eternally.”
2. Beautiful Savior – As an alto (and sometimes a begrudging tenor) I’m a sucker for a good harmony. This song has one of my favorites and I LOVE singing this song. The only time I don’t like this song is when I’m playing the organ and I can’t sing it! When Emporia used to have a Christmas Program (before it was changed to the Seasonal Celebration) one of the highlights was the high school chorale singing “Beautiful Savior.” Such a wonderful memory.
1. Abide With Me – This has always my favorite hymn. It is often a hymn associated with funerals (in fact, we sang it at my Grandpa Schwinn’s funeral), but I have always found comfort, not sadness, in the words. It is about how God is always with us, in every situation. When we used to have to do sermon summaries as part of confirmation class, we also had to write about our favorite and least favorite parts of the service for Advent and Lent services…if we sang “Abide With Me” it always served as my favorite, and if we didn’t, that was my least favorite. Once again, I love singing the alto part to this song…and my confirmation class even sang it the day of our confirmation. The final line serves as a reminder to me that God is always there for us…”In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”
I’m not kidding when I say this list could have had 100 songs or more in it…my bonus songs include: “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “Go My Children, With My Blessing,” “The Church’s One Foundation,” “Just As I Am,” “Earth and All stars.” I have decided to do one with my favorite Easter and Lent/Advent and Christmas ones later…there are just so many good ones!