Pastors, teachers, and church musicians share tips.
The Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal (LUYH), due out in June 2013 from Faith Alive Christian Resources, has 900 psalms, hymns and songs. Your church perhaps already has a singing repertoire of about 200 songs. So you might wonder how you would use LUYH to find texts and tunes that open your worshipers to new insights and experiences with God.
Lift Up Your Hearts outlines the whole redemption history arc in two ways. The first section follows the biblical narrative from creation to new creation, including Christ’s life and the Christian year. The second section follows the order of worship, from God calling us to worship through God blessing and sending us out.
People who served on the LUYH editorial committee or have test-driven its songs say this new hymnal will fill gaps in worship music. It offers music from the entire Bible, the whole range of human emotion, every psalm and many cultures.
Congregational songs based on Scripture more often come from the New Testament than the Old Testament. Many congregations sing more about “I” and “me” than “we” or “us,” more about Jesus than about the other persons of the Trinity.
Carol Bechtel, an Old Testament professor at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich., says: “We are so used to hearing that the Old Testament is about the law and the New Testament is about grace. But both themes run throughout Scripture. LUYH has a song I’ve used for years when I teach the first chapters of Genesis. The song, ‘God Marked a Line and Told the Sea’ by Thomas Troeger, explains how gracious God was in giving us the law. It says that freedom doesn’t come from being swept by our own wishes. It comes when ‘we accept the sacred bounds that must be kept.’”
When worshipers mainly sing about individual souls being saved to be with God after death, they miss out on God’s invitation to partner in making all things new. In his book Surprised by Joy, New Testament expert N.T. Wright writes that “salvation only does what it’s meant to do” when Christians “realize that they are saved not as souls but as wholes and not for themselves alone but for what God now longs to do through them.”
LUYH has nearly 100 songs under the heading “Joining in the Spirit’s Work,” such as “Salaam/Peace,” “God of this City,” and “Let Justice Flow Down.”
“We are looking forward to the songs on creation and providence. We’re also excited to explore the subheads on ‘Christ’s Second Coming’ and ‘The New Heaven and New Earth,’ as we are spending a good chunk of 2013 on the Book of Revelation,” says Bruce Benedict, director of worship and community life at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C.
Singing praise to God is right and good. But what do you do sing when disease, death, disaster, or ordinary troubles hit? What do you sing when you know you’ve wronged someone?
“I often hear of situations that call for communal lament, but congregations don’t have the music to express what they’re feeling. The Bible has these words,” Carol Bechtel says.
LUYH has more than 100 Bible-based songs in subheads “In Difficult Times,” “In Death and Dying,” and “Confession and Lament.”
James Hart Brumm is pastor of Blooming Grove Reformed Church in DeFreestville, N.Y. He says:
“I think that my congregation and North American Christians in general are less familiar with the full story of the Scriptures than they think. Themes such as anger, despair, risk-taking, and even grace are less-fully understood. Most North American Christians are surprised by how open and accepting God is of who we are in all our diversity. They also don’t realize how God is always calling us to be more, no matter where we are on our journey.”
Paul Thé, pastor of The Bridge in Chino, California, says that his church has two services—Vintage and Elevation (modern). Both are affected by Southern California culture, which Thé describes as “a pastiche of religious and Christian beliefs. Further complicating Christian formation is both the individualism that runs rampant through culture and the fact that Southern Californians are commuters. They are alone and very mobile.
“We consider ourselves a modern church, but many contemporary songs lack themes of lament, prophetic word, and the third person of the Trinity. LUYH will be beneficial to our Vintage service. We’re still discussing its use in Elevation. At the very least, LUYH’s texts will give us a starting point to evaluate content and consider rewriting into modern songs,” he says.
Jesus grew up singing from the Psalms and quoted them from the cross. There’s a growing movement around the world to sing psalms, because those are words God gave us for worship.
Older hymnals often begin with a complete psalter in numbered order, from Psalm 1 to Psalm 150. LUYH includes all 150 psalms but slots them throughout the hymnal, wherever they fit best.
For example, Psalm 97 (“God Reigns! Earth Rejoices”) appears in the first section (The Story of Creation and Redemption) under the heading “Christ’s Life” and subhead “Christmas.” Psalm 42 (“Como el Cierva/Like a Deer”) appears in the second section (Worshiping the Triune God) under the heading “Opening of Worship” and subhead “Called and Gathered.”
Looking at where each psalm appears in LUYH’s two main sections will give you ideas for how to use more psalms in worship. The Blooming Grove congregation already sings psalms weekly. “They like contemporary, lively metrical psalms that address the full breadth of the psalter in ways that speak to them. Having more of those in the hymnal will be a great help to us,” James Hart Brumm says.
Because God redeems people in all eras and cultures, the hymnal’s many genres span 17 centuries. This congregational music comes from Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox communities around the world, and includes text in many languages.
Claudia Godoy Cortés teaches at Eastern Christian High School and co-leads worship at Bridgeway Community Church in Haledon, N.J. “LUYH will help you find beautiful and authentic songs from Asia, Latin America, Native American cultures, Russia, and all over the world. If you explore the hymnal’s organization, you will find classic, contemporary, and global songs that were traditionally classified in other categories but are now connected with a broader range of uses.
“The great new songs and arrangements will resound with youth in church and at school. Also, if you go on mission trips, these songs may help you connect to people from other countries who share the same faith. Music is a big part of this family in Christ,” she says.
Bridgeway projects songs in worship, so Godoy Cortés is glad that LUYH is available in formats besides printed books. You can get it in these electronic formats:
Order one or more copies of Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (LUYH). It comes in print, projection, and electronic formats. Find out which churches and seminaries have ordered 20-plus copies. Learn how LUYH will help worshipers sing the true story of the whole world. Read about the process of choosing LUYH songs. Like Lift Up Your Hearts Hymnal on Facebook.
Consider sponsoring a Lift Up Your Hearts hymn festival. Listen to the classic “Oh, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” as sung at a LUYH festival in Pultneyville, New York. When James Hart Brumm planned a LUYH festival at Blooming Grove Reformed Church in DeFreestville, New York, he chose “songs that would range from the familiar-but-somehow-new to things that would challenge my congregation. Responses were generally favorable. Those in attendance enjoyed and were intrigued by most of what they saw and sang.”
The LUYH editorial committee gathered far more excellent psalm settings than they had room for. They published Psalms for All Seasons: a Complete Psalter for Worship (PSAS) to provide a home for these other psalm settings worth singing. Bruce Benedict describes PSAS as “an excellent, eclectic collection that is also a devotional, resource guide, psalter, and prayer book.”
Feel free to print and distribute these stories at your staff, worship, music, or church education meeting. These questions will help people think about how completely your music reflects God’s actions and people.