Worship leaders interested in helping their communities of faith grow in both their knowledge of God and practice of worship would do well to heed the words of Jesus in Matthew 13, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Matthew 13:52). This week’s review, Love Divine: The Hymns of Charles Wesley (released April 19, 2011) is a treasure both old and new.
Charles Wesley, the younger brother of John Wesley, was a monster songwriter, having written over six thousand songs during his lifetime. Do the math – Wesley averaged over 75 songs a year over the span of his eighty years of life. While I am sure not all of them were gems, over 150 of Wesley’s works are still found in hymnbooks today. Wesley’s hymns enabled the church of the time to remember and experience the Bible, even if they were unable to read it.
Love Divine, a project produced by Chris Eaton and John Hartley, features thirteen of today’s best songwriters and their 21st century expressions of some of Wesley’s richest hymns. This is what Chris Eaton had to say about the project:
“Our church society throughout the world has maybe become too ‘familiar’ in our expression of worship at times. I longed to paint a musical picture in production of these new melodies, that truly enhances the text, born out of great liturgy, so that our modern experience of worship links us directly to the passion of the early hymn writers. John Hartley shared my vision, and we set about finding great hymns of faith and writing new music to enhance worship experiences of each personal heart, within local church congregations. I believe that God will powerfully use music such as this to change our hearts, and our world.”
I do believe God will use these fresh expressions to capture the hearts of 21st century worshipers.
Here are my favorite tracks:
Jesus, Lover of My Soul (Chris Eaton) – this minor-keyed arrangement begins simple with piano and builds with each of the five verses, concluding with beautiful, driving and haunting guitars.
Christ The Lord Is Risen Today (Aaron Keyes) – another minor keyed arrangement that initially catches you off-guard. Give it a few listens and Keyes’ retelling of Christ’s victory over sin and death will give you a new song to sing this Easter season.
I Know That My Redeemer Lives (Tim Hughes) – classic Hughes approach, driving chorus and accessible for congregational use.
Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above (Leigh Nash) – Lilting 6/8 feel, just as you would expect from the Sixpence None the Richer frontperson.
Jesus The Name High Over All (Chris Quilala) – I love Quilala’s passion as he declares: “O that the world might taste and see, the riches of His grace; the arms of love that compass me, would all the world embrace.”
The full Love Divine track listing is as follows:
01) I Know That My Redeemer Lives – Tim Hughes
02) Rejoice The Lord Is King – John Ellis
03) And Can It Be – Jason Roy
04) Jesus We Look To Thee – Kim Walker-Smith
05) Jesus Lover Of My Soul – Chris Eaton
06) Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – Brian Johnson
07) Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above – Leigh Nash
08) Jesus The Name High Over All – Chris Quilala
09) O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing – Chris McClarney
10) Love Divine – Jenn Johnson
11) Christ The Lord Is Risen Today – Aaron Keyes
12) Christ Whose Glory Fills The Skies – Mark Roach
13) O For A Heart To Praise my God – Brenton Brown
Question: What is your favorite hymn and what modern day songwriter has either arranged or rewritten a hymn that has enabled you to more deeply worship Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.