Each week as I plan worship services, I study the scriptures the preacher has chosen in order to plan music that fits their theme. I spend lots of time at hymnary.org searching for songs and often find things that are just about perfect, but use archaic language, are slightly off topic, or have unwieldy melodies. In those cases, I might “re-tune” the hymn or simply use the text as a launching pad for an entirely new song.
That was the case this week when I ran across John Chandler’s hymn “O Christ, Our Hope, Our Heart’s Desire,” a translation of the Latin hymn, “Jesu, nostra redemption, amor et desiderium.” It’s a fine hymn that fit Rev. Dale Cooper’s message “Eastered Living: Faith on Tiptoe” well. But the tune was…uninspiring.
I began by writing a new tune. That was the easy part, taking only 10 minutes. But then I went through a half dozen drafts of the original tune until it felt just right. In time I decided to write a new text that stayed closer to the theme of dying and rising with Christ. After much scribbling, erasing, and rewriting, I arrived at “O Risen Christ, Our Living Hope.”
1. O risen Christ, our living hope,
our loving Savior whom we sing
a grateful song of endless love
a tune that flows from mercy’s stream:
How vast the grace, how great the love–
as deep as any sea.
You died our death and rose to life
that we might live abundantly.
2. Long were we trapped in sin’s foul grasp–
a darkened dungeon of despair–
until you stormed the gates of death.
Life filled our lungs, hope filled the air. Chorus
3. And now we live in Jesus Christ,
those once discarded, now redeemed.
Christ bore our death, we share his life,
and all our days repeat the theme: Chorus
4. Were we to have a thousand lives
and endless breath to sing your praise,
no song could speak, no tongue express,
no mind could know, no heart convey: Chorus