Come, Thou Fount of every blessing;
tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
songs of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise….
...prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for Thy courts above.
~ by Robert Robinson (1757)
Does everybody have a “go-to” song? Does everybody have a song that they sing or hum to themselves when in a crisis or facing a mountain to climb? Is there a song that sings in you when words don’t come or when they fall far short?
Several songs sing to me. But there are only a couple that my heart knows best. Great is Thy Faithfulness, Be Thou My Vision and Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing are my big-three. Come, Thou Fount's history is strong and true. This song always lifts my spirits (especially when sung with others); it brings my soul reassurance. This hymn most certainly has old words. More often than not these old words bump and bang around into my theology. But this song has grown up with me. It has pushed me through and led me on. It has been a gift my whole life and I keep it close. One thing I know is that I will surely need it again.
As we journey through Lent, it’s important to keep our songs close, and bring them out all along the way. Some parts of the journey call for proclamation. Some parts call on our affirmations. Some parts of the journey call for contemplation and quiet. All through this year (even before the start of Lent) I have needed these songs of faith. These days are tender-lovin’ days. Every day it seems, something happens that speaks to hardship and suffering. Most every day, it seems we can hear the Earth groaning. Every day it seems, we need to bring our own light to what seems to be human-made darkness. Every day it seems, I fear of growing too weary to go on. And so, we sing.
This song asks for a “tuning of the heart.” That feels like exactly what is needed. It’s not that we can’t sing, it’s just that the tune feels a little bit off key. Here in the song’s very first words there is an ancient knowing of how easy it is to drift and lose our way. “Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” These words call on acts of lovingkindness that always hold us. These words hold to our knowing of something bigger in the greater Story than just what we are currently experiencing. Such a tender/clear request, “tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” It’s not asking for things to be fixed. Not asking for the mountain before us to be flattened. It is asking that our hearts be brought in tune with the ever-faithful melody.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.” How true are these words. I remember singing these words in the MYF high school choir. I remember singing it in the midnight communion services at the when I was in college. I remember singing it when I was working with folks who were dying of AIDS. I remember singing it at the early service at Central UCC. It has been sung at loved ones’ baptisms and funerals. It continues to journey with me as I make my way into this waking-up Spring.
I wonder about a time when these words of a person's faith and a certain melody were first brought together in the mid-1700's. It's a gift that continues to lift me up and bring me home centuries later. There is a marveling that I have treasured memories of hearing each of my grandmothers sing this hymn - one in a Methodist Church in Illinois, the other (sung an octave lower) in a Congregational Church in Connecticut. There is with deep, deep gratitude that I have heard our boys sing it as well. Over the years, singing with loved ones, I have heard this song sung out-of-tune to my ear. But that tuning has never stopped us from singing. Tuning our hearts speaks to this song's message, and to this pilgrim's prayer.