Music November 19, 2023

Call To Worship

I Will Call upon the Lord: 866

A song which encourages us to call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised is “I Will Call Upon the Lord.”  The text of stanza one, adapted from Psalm 18:3, was written and the tune (O’Shields) was composed both by Michael O’Shields.  I have not been able to find very much information about this author and composer, except that his birth date is listed as being 1948.  I did find reference to a Michael O’Shields who was born in 1948 and currently lives in Kennedale, TX.  Before that, he lived in Burleson, TX, from 2000 to 2010, and in Arlington, TX, during the 1990s.  This appears to be the Michael O’Shields of EarthenWare Publishing Inc. who has written a book entitled Rethinking Forgiveness.   I also found reference to Mike O’Shields who was born in 1948 and currently lives in Colleyville, TX.  I do not know whether either of these individuals is the writer of this song.

“I Will Call Upon the Lord” is dated 1981.  Most sources say that it was “Copyright 1981, Universal-MCA Music Publishing obo Sound III Music.”  Others list it as written in 1981 but not copyrighted until 1984, 1992, or even 1994, although those later dates may refer to assignments or arrangements.  I have seen the song with a single stanza, number 1 below, and chorus in the 1986 Hymnal for Worship and Celebration from Word Music; the 1987 Worship His Majesty from Gaither Music Company; the 1989 Worship the Lord Hymnal from Warner Press; the 1993 Sing to the Lord Hymnal from Lillenas Publishing Company; the 1995 Rejoice Hymnal from Tempo Music Publications; the 1990 Celebration Hymnal from Word Music and Integrity Music; and the 2001 Worship and Rejoice from Hope Publishing Company.  Each of these adds the phrase “I will call upon the Lord” before the chorus which begins “The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock….”

Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

The Steadfast Love of the Lord: 892

See if you can guess what the following cities have in common: St. Petersburg (alternately named Leningrad), Berlin, Warsaw, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Jerusalem. Others could probably be added to that list, especially ones you might be intimately familiar with if you were alive and living in them in Europe or Japan in the 1939-1945 period. War, and utter misery. That’s the common theme, and for those of us who watch the History Channel (some call it the War Channel), this probably wasn’t too hard to guess.

Jerusalem had an eyewitness 2,600 years ago, and he wrote some words that we sing today. Yet, these words don’t sound a lot like someone witnessing horror…in fact, they sound like words of hope and glad tidings. What was the prophet Jeremiah thinking when he wrote the words ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…’? As he watched the shockwave reverberate in Jerusalem in 586 B.C., Jeremiah found the words to describe the misery in the book of Lamentations, but amidst them he also wrote the words in chapter three (verses 22-24, Revised Standard Version) that we sing cheerfully. It’s a measure of his faith, that the prophet was able to summon these words while observing an abject nightmare. It’s like stumbling upon an oasis in the middle of a vast desert. Unexpected is too tame a word to describe this phenomenon. One would think the composer must have lost his mind, and indeed many spectators through history probably did think prophets were a bit unbalanced – doomsday predictors bent on disturbing the calm, usually. In this case, Jeremiah is doing the opposite, glimpsing the world through rose-colored glasses while all around is utter despair. How’s he do it?

Today, Jeremiah’s unavailable for interview (maybe I’ll see him in heaven?), but maybe there’s some contemporary insights from other wars that can instruct us. I watched with fascination the movie ‘The Pianist’ a few years ago, a true story of how a Polish classical pianist – a Jew – survived in Warsaw in World War II (see picture of city above). He scratched, he clawed to live in 1944-45. One of the last scenes during the war shows him performing for an audience of one, a compassionate Nazi officer who lets him live, and even gives him his winter coat and some food. It’s as if the tide has turned at that moment, when the bottom has been reached, and one human being helps another because he recognizes beauty – the Jew’s piano playing – amid the ruin. Maybe that’s Jeremiah’s secret, that he was captivated by something beautiful, despite the devastation all around him. That’s God. He’s the beauty I can see, the oasis I encounter when there’s nothing else left to sustain me. In May 2008, someone asked the music-writer of “The Steadfast Love of the Lord”, Amy Bessire, to comment on her contribution to this song. Her humble response sounds strangely similar…‘it was all God’. (She was visiting the Four Lakes Church of Christ in Madison, Wisconsin at the time). He’s the oasis, He’s beauty, and He’s music, all metaphors that Jeremiah’s and Amy’s song calls to mind as I sing about His steadfast love.


You Are My All in All (sing chorus after each stanza): 989

A song which pictures the Lord as our strength, shield, and helper is “You Are My All in All.”  The text of stanzas 1 and 2 was written and the tune was composed both by Dennis L. Jernigan, who was born in 1959 at Sapulpa, OK, to Samuel Robert Jernigan and Peggy Yvonne Johnson Jernigan.  Soon after his birth, his parents moved to the farm that his grandparents had built and where his father was raised, three miles from the small town of Boynton, OK.  There he and his brothers attended school.  When he was six or seven, his grandmother Jernigan moved back to the farm in a trailer next to the old farmhouse where they lived, and she taught him to play the piano by the time he was nine years old.  Each day after school he could be found at his grandmother’s house practicing piano.  The family attended First Baptist Church where his grandfather Herman Everett Johnson had been minister, his parents had met, and his father led singing.

Jernigan’s relationship with his parents was quite typical for that generation. They were not an affectionate family. While he did feel affection from his mother, he never remembered receiving physical affection from his father.  Therefore, his erroneous feelings of being rejected and worthless led to his secretly pursuing a homosexual lifestyle, which continued through high school and his four years at Oklahoma Baptist University.  He later wrote, “My problem was not my father. My problem was that I believed a lie. Once Satan got his foot in the door of my heart, any rejection – no matter how big or how small – was perceived as a lack of love from my dad (or whomever I felt rejected by at the time).”  Upon his graduation from OBU in 1981, he went to a concert by a group called The Second Chapter of Acts in Norman, OK.  When he heard their song “Mansion Builder,” he acknowledged the fact that he was totally helpless and turned everything in his life over to Jesus–thoughts, emotions, physical body, and his past– taking responsibility for his own sins and yielding every right to Jesus.

Since then, Jernigan married his wife Melinda in 1983, and they have nine children.  A singer and songwriter of contemporary Christian music, he heads a music-based Christian ministry from his home in Muskogee, OK.  His ministry is based on his personal experience, which he shares at churches and other locations around the world. He also campaigned against a proposed Hate Crimes Bill (H.R. 1592), saying that the legislation’s passage would strip him of his right to speak freely about his self-identification as ex-gay, though he states that he does not wish to be labeled as “ex-gay,” but instead as “reborn” or as “[God’s] new creation.”  Having been set free from bondage and walking away from his old sinful life in 1981, he has produced numerous praise and worship songs.   “You Are My All in All” was copyrighted with two stanzas in 1991 (although one source gives the date of 1990) by Shepherd’s Heart Music.  A third stanza was added in 1996 by Randall J. Harris.  Upon hearing and thinking of the tune on several occasions, some words came to my mind which I have set down in a fourth stanza.

Communion Meditation

Come, Share the Lord: 916

Some hymns seem to flow immediately from the author’s pen, while others require months of gestation. The latter is the case with “Come, Share the Lord,” by Bryan Jeffery Leech (b. 1931), who wrote both text and music.

The composer is a native of Buckhurst Hill, Essex, England, who moved to the United States in 1955. His communion hymn, “Come, Share the Lord,” has become not only his most frequently used hymn, but also a favorite hymn during the Lord’s Supper, especially among evangelical congregations.

Mr. Leech provides us with a background on his struggle to compose the text of this hymn:

“In the autumn of 1982, I made an inner resolve to write a communion anthem and promptly forgot about it. During Christmas with my family in England, I invented a melody at the piano, but my mind was barren of any lyric ideas.

“One hot summer day, while visiting a musician friend in Simi Valley, Calif., I played the setting and asked him to react to it. After repeating it, he thought a moment and then said, ‘It’s obvious: Holy Communion.’ I went home and within an hour the words were complete. In the anthem arrangement by Roland Tabell it has become my most popular song to date.”

In reflecting on the text, the author’s theology of communion unfolds. Sharing the Lord’s Supper is a response to the “burning in our hearts” for the love of Christ who “makes us one.”

In the stanzas that follow we find that this is an open table where “No one is a stranger” and “everyone belongs.” Furthermore, this is a table where we “find… forgiveness” and “we in turn forgive all wrongs.”

The author places this celebration in the context of the post-Resurrection appearances of Christ with his followers. The second stanza begins with a reflection on passages like Luke 24:13-27 (the appearance of Christ on the road to Emmaus) and the multiple post-Resurrection appearances in John 20 and 21: “He joins us here, he breaks the bread/ the Lord who pours the cup is risen from the dead.”

This stanza takes the relationship of those gathered at the table a step further. This is not only a table where there are no strangers and “everyone belongsp;” in the sharing of communion, “We are now a family of which the Lord is head.”

Bryan Jeffrey Leech received his education at The London Bible College in England, and at Barrington College in Massachusetts and North Park Seminary in Chicago. He was ordained in 1959 in the Evangelical Covenant denomination, and has served pastorates in Massachusetts, New Jersey and California.

Mr. Leech is pastor emeritus at First Covenant Church in Oakland, Calif. He has composed over 500 songs, hymns, anthems and cantatas.

He was co-editor for the evangelical collection, Hymns for the Family of God, and author of the book, Lift My Spirits Lord: Prayers of a Struggling Christian. He is also the creator of the lyrics, books and musical scores for several biblically based musical plays, and has written two books for children.

The author succeeds beautifully in communicating a sense of cosmic time that surrounds all who share this meal. In this hymn we recall the post-Resurrection meals as a biblical witness of the past; we share the meal with Christ in our midst in the present; finally, “we anticipate the feast for which we wait” in the future.

The fullness of communion comes for those who understand that at the moment of this meal, time—past, present and future—collapses into that single moment.


I’m Going That Way: 319

A song which is designed to encourage us to follow the path that will lead to the Lord’s telling us that we have done well as good and faithful servants is “I’m Going That Way” (#189 in Sacred Selections).  The text was written by James Rowe (1865-1933).  A prolific hymn text author, Rowe is perhaps best known for “Love Lifted Me,” but his “After the Shadows,” “God Holds the Future in His Hands,” “He’s My King,” “Home of the Soul,” “I Choose Jesus,” “Looking to Thee,” “I Have Been Redeemed,” “What Is He Worth to Your Soul?”, “Won’t It Be Wonderful There?”, “Wonderful Jesus,” “You Never Mentioned Him to Me,” “Ring Out the Message,” “Wonderful City,” and a number of others.

The tune was composed by L. B. Register, about whom I have been able to find no further information other than that he lived in Greenville, FL.  He might be Lennard Bernard Register, Sr. (1899–1973), who is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Jasper, Florida. The song is usually dated 1922, which is likely when it was entered for copyright by Register, and if this is correct, it probably first appeared in the 1922 Songs of the Coming King edited by R. E. Winsett of Fort Smith, AR.  However,, which inexplicably titles the song “I’m Facing That Way” but gives Rowe as the author and “I’ve heard of a land of joy and peace” as the first line, says that it appeared in the 1920 Truth and Hope No. 2 edited by G. W. Bacon for the Teacher’s Music Publishing of Hudson, NC.  However, sometimes publishers would come out with subsequent editions of a book with added songs but not change the date of the book.  Or it could be that it was first published in 1920 but not actually copyrighted until 1922.

Other books in which the song was found include Celestial Songs for all Purposes and Songs of Old-Time Power: a Book of the Best Spiritual Songs for Evangelistic and All Religious Purposes both in 1923, From the Cross to the Crown No. 2 in 1929, Favorite Songs in 1934, Vocal Gems in1935, Chimes of Glory No. 3 in 1936, Waves of Joy in 1937, World Wide Church Songs in 1947, Old Time Glory, Songs of Inspiration, and Universal Songs and Hymns: a Complete Hymnal all in 1949, and Precious Message in 1953.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song may currently be found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, as well as Sacred Selections and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


There’s a Fountain Free: 655

A song which talks about the living fountains of waters to which the Lamb shall lead us is “There’s A Fountain Free” or “Free Waters” (#287 in Hymns for Worship Revisedand #593 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Mrs. Mary Bridges Canedy Slade (1826-1882). The tune (Free Waters) was composed by Asa Brooks Everett (1828-1875). The song was first published in 1876, though it must have been produced before that time because Everett died the prior year, and was copyrighted by Rigdon McCoy McIntosh. Mrs. Slade and Mr. Brooks collaborated in many songs which appear in our books, the most famous of which is “Footprints of Jesus,” including “Beyond This Land of Parting,” “Hark! The Gentle Voice of Jesus,” and “Who At My Door Is Standing?” It has been affirmed that Everett was a member of the Church of Christ, but I have not been able to confirm this.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, “There’s a Fountain Free” appeared in the the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1938/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1938 Spiritual Melodies, the 1947 Standard Gospel Hymns, and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 all edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymns and the 1960 Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymnsedited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

Announcements & Closing Prayer