O Sacred Head

a classic Lenten hymn used frequently during Holy Week

This passion hymn details the crucifixion story of Jesus and focus on the head of Christ. The words for this medieval hymn come from an anonymous 11th/12th century latin text that is thought to be written either by Bernard of Clairvaux or (more likely) Arnulf of Louvain. The text for O Sacred Head is from the last in a cycle of poems written about the wounds of Christ during the crucifixion (feet, knees, hands, sides, breast, heart, and head).* The hymn’s text pulls from images of the crucifixion as found in Matt 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20, & John 19:1-5 where a crown of thorns is fashioned and placed on the head of Jesus by the guards who are beating and mocking him. It is a classic Lenten hymn and is used frequently on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday during Holy Week.

The hymn tune comes from Hans L Hassler (1601) and the harmony is by J.S. Bach and comes from his St. Matthew Passion, 1729. However, the tune and text were first matched together by Lutheran musician Johann Crüger in 1656. It later was included in several hymn collections and made its way into western Christianity’s hymnody.*

In the recorded version below I take some license with the musical arrangement and with the meter of the phrasing in this wonderful and ancient hymn of the western church. It can be found in the UMHymnal #286.

“O Sacred Head” chords

(*Many of the notes here are from a the resources and writings of a great United Methodist professor and theologian of church music, Carlton R. Young (editor of United Methodist Hymnal/Companion to the UM Hymnal) and from Diana Sanchez’s introductions to Hymns of the United Methodist Hymnal.)

I Want Jesus to Walk with Me

a version my good friend Rev. Michael A. Hunt and I worked up in Spring of 2009

This is a version my good friend Rev. Michael A. Hunt and I worked up for a worship service at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Spring of 2009. Michael is an excellent and accomplished singer and should be singing instead of me, but he is now in Iowa in work/ministry at Grinnell College. (you can read his blog here)

This song is an African American Spiritual and has deep roots in the black church tradition. As are many spirituals, this song is a prayer–but, as Michael puts it, it is not a prayer of someone who doesn’t think that Jesus is there, but it is a song that helps us to remember and have reaffirmed that fact that Jesus IS with us.

In worship settings it can be used for congregational song or for use as a special music or solo/duet. In this version, the guitar is tuned a 1/2 step down (Eflat) for a more blues-like sound (it can go another whole step down if needed/desired).

It is a suitable song and prayer for the liturgical season of Lent (40 days before Easter) in the Church year and is a fitting song to sing when you’re going through the trials and troubles of life.

I want Jesus to walk with me lyrics/chords (guitar tuned a half step down to Eflat)

As It Is In Heaven by Matt Maher

a great setting of the Lord’s prayer by singer/songwriter Matt Maher

The lyrics of this song come from Psalm 40 (sing a new song) and Matthew 6 (the Lord’s prayer) as penned by Catholic singer/songwriter Matt Maher (http://mattmahermusic.com) in collaboration with Ed Cash (accomplished singer/songwriter/songcompleter in the christian music/worship realm).

In the process of writing and rewriting this song, Maher writes that he hopes that this song can be one that emphasizes the unity of the Christian faith as all traditions utilize some form of the Lord’s prayer as found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.

It gives me hope for the future of church music (and the church) when worship leaders and musicians use ancient words with modern arrangements that have such a high degree of liturgical and practical significance–such as this song. This gives me hope–hope that the Church can move beyond the extremes of traditionalism (tradition for its own sake) and the misunderstanding/denial of traditions &  people who have come before us. I have hope that the Church can continue to express the Christian faith in ways that embrace the ancient, liturgical, & traditional elements of our past while engaging with the modern/post-modern/future elements of our current cultural climate and our contextual understanding of Christianity. Music and worship like what Matt Maher and Marty Reardon (see post below) are doing is giving deeper context and meaning to ancient liturgical words and practices that enable people to gain a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and tradition. May others continue to do so.

Maher is also the author of the popular song “Your Grace is Enough.” One of my favorites from the album “Alive Again” is a deep, meaningful, & liturgical song: “Christ is Risen From the Dead”, which uses the Eastern Orthodox phrase from the Pascha (Easter) “Christ is risen from the dead/trampling over death by death.” It will likely show up here later this liturgical year.


Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas by Trinity/Martin Reardon

written by the worship team at Trinity Anglican Mission in Atlanta, Ga with worship pastor Martin Reardon

This song is written by the worship team at Trinity Anglican Mission in Atlanta, Ga where worship pastor Martin Reardon and other gifted leaders work and serve. Reardon is an excellent musician, writer, and a down-to-earth, genuine guy with a longing for worship music that connects to the liturgy of the service (more of Martin on youtube).

This song comes from the “Prayers of the Saints” CD that they put out in 2006. My good friend Jarrett Dickey (http://fiveriverschurchplant.blogspot.com), who worked at Trinity during seminary brought this song (and many others) to my attention. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know Marty, the good people at Trinity, and their carefully crafted music. (please check out excellent worship music site http://www.trinityworshipmusic.org )

At the Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University, we sing this song often during communion because of the simple, but profound words and melody and the meaning behind them. The worship team (cello, mandolin, piano, drums & guitar) have a great time with St. Thomas.

The text of this song is adapted from a Eucharistic prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas (12th century) and with its modern musical setting can used from a prayerful, solemn vibe to a medium tempo setting of simply offering thanks to God. There are much better recordings out there, but this should give you an idea of how it can be played and done.

Holy, Holy, Holy by Reginald Heber

a favorite for the opening of worship and is widely sung as an Trinitarian ecumenical hymn

This hymn is a favorite for the opening of worship on Sunday mornings for many congregations but is also widely sung as an ecumenical hymn due to its circulation and familiarity in multiple contexts. 

The author intended this hymn’s text to be sung following the saying of the Nicene Creed on Trinity Sunday and draws from the biblical imagery of Revelation 4:8-11 and Isaiah 6. In the early 20th century, this text, with its current hymn tune was recommended to be used in celebrating Communion and is often still used for this purpose. (Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity from 14th century Russia at right).

Heber was an Anglican priest and bishop of Calcutta in India and was a well known hymn writer. This hymn can be found in the United Methodist Hymnal #64 along with other hymns he penned including “Bread of the World” UMH #688.

The imagery and language of this hymn is Trinitarian in its scope and invites those who are singing into a space to worship and praise God. For me, this hymn is one of many examples of hymns whose content and musicality can still translate and be brought into our post-modern context (barring a few exchanges of “wert” for “were”). This is a “classic” hymn in my book and one that can unite people from various traditions, backgrounds, and experiences in worship of our Triune God.

chords for Holy, Holy, Holy

The Summons–John Bell

The Summons is about the calling of all people to follow God’s call to become themselves more fully. To “care for cruel and kind” and to “never be the same.” In this song the call to service is one that is transformational–when we accept Christ’s calling to come and be where God is already, our lives are shaped by the experience. The last line of each verse also echoes the mutual nature of how God works in us and through us and through God we find our living, our moving, and our being.

The lyrics for this song come out of the Iona Community in Scotland where writer and musician John Bell lives and works. The music is from a traditional Scottish tune called “Kelvingrove.” Written in 1987, The Summons can be found in the United Methodist hymnal addition called “The Faith We Sing” number 2130.

the guitar chords:

E    Bsus C#m    A2    Bsus
E    Bsus C#m    A2 Bsus E
F#m    C#m    A2    Bsus
E    Bsus    C#m    A2 Bsus E

God of this City–by Bluetree

This is another example of a modern song that is born out of the difference between the classic “now and not yet”–the idea that things of the world now are not as they should be.

This song is written by Aaron Boyd of the band Bluetree from Belfast, Ireland. It has been made popular by Chris Tomlin and other worship leaders, but knowing the song’s context for me gives more meaning (see below for link). I prefer the stripped down, simpler version of this song for worship settings. (My general preference is for simple, congregationally driven worship songs/hymns.)

For me, the “city” in this song is more than just a single city, locality, or nation–it is the City of God that St. Augustine wrote about in the 5th century–it is a city of God’s people doing God’s will. That is what the kingdom of God looks like and that is what Jesus’ ministry began: the coming of God’s Kingdom. As Christians, we work together with all of God’s people to bring about the Kingdom of God– a place where broken people are made whole, hope is given to the hopeless, and God’s grace abounds.

This song reminds us that there is much to be done and greater things have yet to come. Jesus said this in John 1 to his disciples and we believe it still today: Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done to reconcile us to ourselves, us to each other, us to the created order, and us to God.

The story (& a much better recording) of the song is here.

Everlasting God–cover

If you take a moment to think about where and how you have experienced God–in a moment, a place, or an action–you may discover a touchstone or ordinance (religious rite) that helps keep you in love of God and neighbor.

This is a song by Brenton Brown/Ken Riley written using Isaiah 40’s words that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength and rise up on the wings of eagles.

The song also embraces the prophet’s (and God’s) desire for justice for those in need–the weak and poor. For me, these needy and weak persons can be both us who sing these songs in worship and those who are poor in other ways. In either case our salvation is tied up together–in helping save others lives (not simply ‘souls’ but a more holistic salvation) through mission and service and evangelism–we also receive God’s salvation.

This subject of “waiting” is a popular one in the prophetic literature and in the Psalms. But, this type of waiting is (in my opinion) not what some would call christian “quietism” in the sense of passive waiting upon God to act or speak. This was a popular doctrine in catholic and protestant circles in the 17th century.

John Wesley, the Anglican priest and father of Methodism, said that christians must “attend to the ordinances of God.” That is that people striving to follow the ways of Jesus should actively wait upon God by going where God is conveyed. (And yes God is everywhere, but the argument can be made that God is better revealed and made known to us in certain places, spaces, and actions. In this is we who need a change of venue or pace in order to recognize the God that is ever-present.)

If you take a moment to think about where and how you have experienced God–in a moment, a place, or an action–you may discover a touchstone or ordinance (religious rite) that helps keep you in love of God and neighbor. How do you keep that ordinance or touchstone in your daily life now?

As one of my favorite seminary professors Rex Matthews has said of our participation in God’s work–if you want to catch the bus, you go to a bus stop…if you want to hear from/experience God, go to where God is.

Many experience this place/space at church in worship, communion, singing, praying, in conversation with friends and family, or in other ways. Whatever/where-ever it is, find it and go to it often. This is what John Wesley was talking about–where and how do you find/connect to God and what God is doing in, through, with and, even, in spite of you?

It is in our “active waiting in that place/space/event that we find strength to live and move and act in the world in ways that express the Love of Jesus Christ God.

chords and words for Everlasting God

Video/music: “I Will Go” (cover)

After having several (ongoing) conversations with many people who tend think that all modern christian music has bad theology, and is all fist-pumping, empty rhetoric (although some of it is)–I’ve decided to start posting up some music (some of my own acoustic versions) I’ve come across. I hope that these songs/hymns will be helpful to christians who are searching for songs and hymns that have deep meaning, good theology, and good musicality for various types of worship.

The first of these is “I Will Go” by Jon and Tim Neufield–two brothers in a Canadian band called Starfield. This song addresses the need for christians to understand and heed God’s call to minister with the poor, the oppressed, and the broken–“the ones the world has cast aside.” My favorite lines (perhaps one I most identify with) come in the second verse: “Let me not be blind with privilege/ give me eyes to see the pain/ Let the blessing you’ve poured out on me/ not be spent on me in vain/ let this life be used for change.”

This is an answer to the ever-present question of “what do you do with privilege?” In recognizing and using one’s privilege to help those who have none is what God calls us to do. God calls us to go and join the effort that God is already making in places of need and hurt. As Starfield articulates on their website:

“We are so privileged, yet we’re so dissatisfied with our lives no matter how well we’re doing”, lead singer Tim Neufeld says. “There’s always this underlying pressure to be doing better, when the exact opposite should be the case. The pressure and call on our lives should be to live with less and give away more.”

May we live our lives in ways that allow others to fully live.

I will go – Chord Chart

Making➔ Space

Emory Wesley LogoWhen we offer hospitality to strangers, we welcome them into a place to which we are somehow connected–a space that has meaning and value to us.

Christine D. Pohl in Making Room: Recovering Hospitality
as a Christian Tradition

One of the most classic  and exhilarating college experiences is having a roommate. Sometimes this goes along smoothly, but other times it does not. However good or bad, there is something challenging and formative about sharing space with people who are different from you –it is experiences like this that help shape you into the person you will be when you finish college.

Two of the greatest challenges in life are finding space to belong to and making room for others. We all need a space to belong, a community to take part in, a group where we can be ourselves. People were created by God to be in community–to be in relationship–with God, with each other, and all of creation. It is perhaps easier to have our own space, but it is not as rich, not as diverse, or as beautiful as sharing our lives with others.

This is why it is vital that students have a place to come together in Christian community–a place where they can form and be formed into the people they are becoming in Jesus Christ. Jesus was all about making space. In the story wesley outlineof Levi, the tax collector, and Jesus in Mark chpt 2, we can see that Jesus made room in his community for tax collectors and sinners–those who society and religion of the day had excluded. Our job and calling is to make room for those society and even religion may exclude–those who are marginalized, labeled, and dis-connected.

Making room for others is difficult because it means we have to share the space that we have found. The students of the Emory Wesley Fellowship have found their space and are sharing it. They have defined themselves as “a community of disciples growing together in love of God and love of neighbor” and are seek to live it out. The Emory Wesley is a place where students come together as strangers and leave as part of a community having shared in a space that has meaning and value for their lives and their journey with God.

This past Sunday we had our first dinner and worship service and had a group of around 25 students. Our group is small, but a welcoming and growing group. We ate good food, shared in fellowship, song, prayer, and the Lord’s supper together. The student leadership of Emory Wesley is a talented, dynamic group of leaders and I am blessed to work with them. May God continue to bless and guide the Kingdom efforts made by the Emory Wesley Fellowship.

Grace and peace,loving god and neighbor

Joseph McBrayer
Emory Wesley Fellowship, Director
emorywesley.org