This past weekend the Immanuel Worship Team attended a conference on worship at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We ran across several songs connected to the themes in our upcoming series on The Prodigal God. Reflecting on these songs will help us prepare for our study of Jesus’s prodigal son parable.
One of the workshops that Judy Wiersma, David Timm, and I attended had four contemporary songwriters each talk about a new song that they liked and one that they wrote. In the process of walking through the song we learned much about their philosophy of songwriting and their philosophy of worship.
Keith and Kristyn Getty presented the song There Is a Hope by Stuart Townend and Mark Edwards (2007, Thankyou Music) [YouTube version]. Keith Getty and Stuart Townend are well-known for their contemporary hymn In Christ Alone. The themes of the prodigal son parable are embedded in this song. Note especially how each verse ends with a homecoming.
There is a hope that burns within my heart,
That gives me strength for every passing day.
A glimpse of glory now revealed in meagre part,
Yet drives all doubt away
I stand in Christ with sins forgiv’n
And Christ in me the hope of heav’n!
My highest calling and my deepest joy,
To make His will my home.
There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit,
I find the Savior there!
Through present sufferings, future’s fear,
He whispers ‘courage’ in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.
There is a hope that stands the test of time,
That lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning grave,
To see the matchless beauty of a day divine
When I behold His face!
When sufferings cease and sorrows die,
And ev’ry longing satisfied.
Then joy unspeakable will flood my soul,
For I am truly home.
The Gettys also presented their own song Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) [YouTube version] that was co-written with Stuart Townend. We have sung this hymn a few times at Immanuel. Verse 1 talks about the work of Christ on the cross. Verse 2 talks about the Communion bread and what it means. Verse 3 talks about the Communion wine and what it means. Each verse ends with the line “around the table of the King.”
The table is one of our themes in The Prodigal God series. God invites us to his banquet feast whether we are a younger son who has strayed away or whether we are an older son who has tried to serve faithfully for years. None of us deserves the feast, but God in his great love and mercy has made a way through Christ for all of us to come. He pleads with us to come and find our place at the banquet table.
Verse 4 of Behold the Lamb focuses on this feast:
And so with thankfulness and faith
We rise to respond–and to remember
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As his body here on earth.
As we share in his suffering,
We proclaim Christ will come again!
And we’ll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King.
During the closing Communion service we sang a Graham Kendick (Shine, Jesus, Shine) song called The Trumpets Sound, the Angels Sing, the Feast Is Ready (1989, Make Way Music) [YouTube version]. This song is rich with the banqueting feast theme.
The trumpet sound, the angels sing,
The feast is ready to begin.
The gates of heav’n are open wide,
And Jesus welcomes you inside.
Sing with thankfulness songs of pure delight.
Come and revel in heaven’s love and light.
Take your place at the table of the King.
The feast is ready to begin.
Tables are laden with good things,
Oh, taste the peace and joy he brings.
He’ll fill you up with love divine;
He’ll turn your water into wine.
The hungry heart he satisfies,
Offers the poor his paradise.
Now hear all heav’n and earth applaud
The amazing goodness of the Lord.