Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reformed Praise

Last month I was preparing to lead a group discussion on the Confessions of St. Augustine for a meeting of St. Titus Fellowship, which always starts with the singing of a hymn. I found myself wondering whether any of Augustine's reflections had ever been set to music (I could not recall ever having heard such a thing) , and so I set out for a bit of Googling to see what I could find. To my delight I found that such a hymn did indeed exist, but to my surprise it came not from the great heyday of English hymnody, from the late 18th century or thereabouts, but rather had been penned within the last ten years, and by a Baptist at that! Anyone familiar with the Confessions will recognize in "My Heart Has Found Its Rest in Christ" strong echoes of the saint's original words:

Before my restless heart was found,
To worldly treasures it was bound.
The will that seemed so free within
Availed me nothing but to sin.

The Word of God did set me free,
When I took up his book to read:
“Now arm yourself with Jesus Christ;
Be free from nature’s appetite.”

My heart has found its rest in Christ,
My God, My Life, My One Delight!

Obedience to his command
Came by the power of his hand.
What was the grace that he employed?
Compelling and triumphant joy!

How sweet it was at once for me
To from my fruitless joys be free.
The pleasures I once hoped would stay,
The Sovereign Joy did drive away!
My heart has found its rest in Christ,
My God, My Life, My One Delight!
All that he gives me by his grace
Will cause me more to seek his face.
No gift he gives will my love take,
Except to love it for his sake.

Until he calls me to my home,
Or comes again to claim his own,
With zealous tongue I will proclaim
That joy is found in Jesus’ name!

My heart has found its rest in Christ,
My God, My Life, My One Delight!
I was thoroughly impressed with what I saw, and knew at once that I would use this hymn to begin the evening's discussion. And indeed, the group immediately hailed it as a "new favorite." Later I returned to the website, reformedpraise.org, to see what other treasures might lie in wait, and I was not disappointed.

In their own words, "Reformed Praise is a music ministry dedicated to providing songs for corporate worship which are rich in theology, diverse in musical style, and centered on the gospel of grace, that our praise might be informed by Biblical truth." I, for one, enjoy hymns with actual content where we sing about Someone other than ourselves, and found their work refreshing. If you're interested, I'd direct you to either their apologia for Reviving the Hymns or to the page for their new CD, Merciful to Me. I'm not a regular listener to the "Contemporary Christian" genre, but these tracks were a lot better – a lot deeper – than what I've heard on Christian radio.

I've been in touch with Eric Schumacher, the Pastor of Northbrook Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, IA and author of "My Heart Has Found Its Rest in Christ," and I have nothing but great things to say about these people and their project. They're unapologetically Protestant (as we Catholics prepare for All Saints' Day they'll be celebrating Reformation Sunday), but Christians of any stripe who use hymns in their liturgies or worship stand to benefit from paying a visit to their site.


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