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Expecting no change


God's faithfulness

You may have gathered that I am still thinking about change.  Spring seems like a good time to ponder that and this year, maybe more than others, the turning of winter into spring has been a bit of a shock and surprise.  In all my years in Winnipeg (36 and counting!) we have never reached +25 degrees on March 19.

As I re-read the title, I realized it could be taken several ways!  If your bill at the store was $15.75, and you had the exact amount in your wallet, you would ‘expect no change.’  Under unpleasant circumstances, perhaps at a hospital, a doctor might warn you to ‘expect no change’.  Neither of these uses of the phrase are what I had in mind.  In fact, I was not thinking in human terms at all but rather about the character of God.  I understand from scripture that God is unchanging; that Christ is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’.  (Hebrews 13:8)  How reassuring this is in the face of 21st century life!  Is there an expression of that truth in song?  Well, the first example that comes to mind is the hymn “Great is Thy faithfulness” where in verse 1 we sing

...Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
Words by Thomas O. Chisholm, c. Hope Publishing Company, 1951

I like this hymn.  The melody and harmony of the refrain naturally build in strength as we repeat the words:  Great is Thy faithfulness.  To my ears, it is a good solid piece of music married to an equally strong text.  Does it resound with every person sitting in worship at a specific time and place?  Probably not, and to me that is one of the most important reasons to find other musical expressions of our faith.  A couple years ago I was introduced to a wonderful, newer hymn which expresses the ideas of God’s faithfulness and justice in updated language.  The hymn is God of the Bible; here is the first verse and refrain:

God of the Bible, God in the Gospel,
hope seen in Jesus, hope yet to come,
you are our center, daylight or darkness,
freedom or prison, you are our home.
Refrain:
Fresh as the morning, sure as the sunrise,
God always faithful, you do not change.  (repeat)

The author is New Zealander Shirley Erena Murray;  you can read more about her here.  The complete hymn text is available on the Hope Publishing site.  While you’re at the site, I would encourage you to check out some of her other texts.  The words are deep and well articulated and span a variety of topics and seasons.

I have sung this text with a lovely, vibrant tune called Fresh as the Morning by Tony E. Alonso.  He is a fairly young writer; this tune was composed at the age of 21.  You can hear a portion of the tune by going here and searching for it by tune name then clicking on the “listen” icon.

Two sources for this hymn are:
More Voices,
c. 2007, The United Church of Canada
Sing the Journey,
c. 2005, Faith & Life Resources, a division of Mennonite Publishing Network.

 

About the author

Evangeline Keeley has been involved in church music in various ways all her life. She is the Music Director at St. Andrew's, Winnipeg and also teaches piano in the city. Occasionally she presents concerts of sacred music and always includes stories and background on the pieces she plays. Evangeline blogs at her website, Evangeline Keeley.com

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