I grew up attending a small church in a nearby small town. The hymns that we sang were hymns that I am sure many of you would know. Singing hymns as a child was my favorite part of a worship service. I could read music because of my classical training on the piano, and could follow along with notes and try to sing harmony parts. Mostly, however, it was a time that I could participate in worship and did not have to sit still or be quiet while someone else was speaking.
“Christ is Made the Sure Foundation” was a hymn that I do not remember singing as a child, though. I believe my first encounter with this hymn was in my college years at King College, now King University.
For seventeen years of my adulthood, I either participated in or led a worship team at one church. (When I say the words “worship team,” I am referring to the components of a group of people who worked together for a Sunday morning worship service. Within this team was musicians, singers, people who ran a sound board, scripture readers, and those who were responsible for keeping up with words on a screen so that others may sing and follow along. Many people call it a “praise band,” but that sounds and feels outdated to me, as well as lacking the inclusiveness of those who work together for corporate worship, so I go with “worship team.”)
When I began planning worship, I always took note of hymns being sung in the other worship service, especially ones with which I was not familiar. One day I read the words to “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation,” and I thought about the richness within the lyrics.
Christ is made the sure Foundation,
Christ the Head and Cornerstone;
Chosen of the Lord, and precious,
binding all the Church in one,
Holy Zion’s Help forever,
and her Confidence alone.
To this temple, where we call Thee,
come, O Lord of Hosts, today;
with Thy wonted lovingkindness
hear Thy servants as they pray.
And Thy fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.
Here vouchsafe to all Thy servants
what they ask of Thee to gain;
What they gain from Thee forever
with the blessed to retain,
and hereafter in Thy Glory
evermore with Thee to reign.
Laud and honor to the Father,
laud and honor to the Son;
laud and honor to the Spirit,
ever Three and ever One;
while unending ages run.
This hymn identifies where the foundation of the Church has to lie - in Jesus Christ. The second verse invites the Holy Spirit into the worship and asks for a blessing. The third verse reminds us of where our promise lies, that through the grace of God and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, we may reign forevermore with God. Finally, the hymn ends giving honor and praise to our Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Perfect song for a worship service!…except…. the tune seemed unsingable to a general population, and I was not a fan. (It’s okay if you are a fan of that original tune - totally my opinion.) So, I sat down at my piano one day with the lyrics in front of me, and a new tune flowed easily over the words. In July 2009, I introduced that same new tune to the congregation in the service where I was serving in worship. From that point forward, when we sang “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation,” we sang it with the new tune. People seemed to like it, it was singable, and it was memorable.
Done!….well, until 9 years later…
On the first Sunday of 2018, my family and I were then attending a different church, and the pastor spoke about how we cannot simply dwell within the circle of our own church and church family, encouraging those gathered that we have to be a “city on a hill,” as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:14 - "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."
When I heard that, I thought of “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation” - this was the missing, important piece: we cannot only dwell in our own circle. We have to be MOVED into action. We cannot “hide away.”
James 1:22-25 says,
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
WOW. I asked myself (and maybe you could ask yourself) So, do I go to church, hear the word, and leave to put my faith and confidence into action? OR, do I hear the word, then leave and, as James says, “forget what I look like?”
In Luke 6:45, Jesus says,
“For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
Are we so filled by the Holy Spirit that we cannot contain the overflow of our hearts?
Sometimes, I remember what I look like, in whose image I was formed, and the overflow of my heart brings forth words of the goodness and faithfulness of God. It is written all over my face, it shines forth from my eyes! However, sometimes I hear, and then forget what I look like, and so flows from my mouth the overflow of a heart of worry, doubt, and anxiousness, so heavy that I almost cannot bear it. It, too, is written all over my face.
We, as individuals, as “Thy servants,” cannot take the light we’ve been given and simply keep it tucked away in our hearts, or look at it and think about it and relish in it - we have to set it on a pedestal for the whole world to see. AND, we cannot expect people to just want to come see the light within our churches: we have to go out and invite them to come see, to come hear about what God has done in our own lives. We all have a unique, personal story to tell of God’s goodness.
Our foundation in Christ must be a SPRINGBOARD. We must use that foundation and knowledge and peace to propel us into our communities for the Kingdom!
So, nine years later, I added a new chorus to complete the song:
To You, O Lord, our lives we bring:
Stir in us an awakening.
A city on a hill for Thee;
let this church be Your hands and feet,
O let us be Your hands and feet.
So, may we look into the mirror, remember whose we are, remember our foundation, and walk away not forgetting what we look like. May we use that foundation as a springboard to confidently propel us into ways that we may be the hands and feet of Christ, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.