Ever-Tender Shepherd

A few months ago, I was asked to compose a theme song for the World Communion of Reformed Churches’ 2017 General Council meeting in Leipzig, Germany. After three tries I got it right. One of the out-takes from that process was a hymn tune in a distinctly Bach style. I was really pleased to hear from the event organizers that they not only liked the song I submitted, but they liked the Bach-style hymn, as well. They asked if I’d be willing to write a new text for that tune; a text focusing on the suffering of the world.

After a week of drafting, crumpling, re-drafting, and editing, I’m done. “Ever-Tender Shepherd” (PDF) is a musical “collect prayer”–a prayer which petitions God based on God’s attributes. In this case, attributes of Jesus are connected to the needs of the world. We ask Christ, the Shepherd, to gather scattered refugees, for example. This seemed a good way to address the needs of the world without taking sides or naming issues so specifically that the song would be obsolete by the time it was used. I’m especially fond of the third verse. But who am I to play favorites?

1. Ever-tender Shepherd,
hear your people’s moans
as they sift through rubble
that was once their homes.

See your children scatter
as cities burn to ash.
Be for them a refuge;
Be for them a rest.

2. Ever-blessing Brother,
grant again your peace.
Breathe on us your Spirit,
that our wars may cease.

Stanch the endless bleeding
of self-inflicted wounds.
May your blood be healing
and your cross our truce.

3. Ever-wounded Healer,
feel your planet’s pain.
Fever wracks its body;
poison fills its veins.

Hear creation’s groaning,
its sighs too deep for words.
Be the re-creation
of all things on earth.

4. Ever-reigning Victor,
ever-loving Lord,
ever intercede for
us, your weak and poor.

May we ever follow
your perfect sacrifice,
offering lives of mercy,
ever-living Christ.

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