For those who may not be as familiar with Reformation Sunday, it is a day when Lutherans and some Reformed Christians remember the pivotal events in the church of the 16th century. At its best, however, Reformation is not just a celebration of denominational heritage, but a day to renew our focus on God’s grace through Jesus Christ. In that light I offer the following suggestions:
1) Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Chris Tomlin’s update to the world’s most famous hymn fits Reformation well with its emphasis on freedom in Christ.
2) Here I Am to Worship – Tim Hughes. This modern worship classic helps remind us why we gather – because Jesus came to us and for us.
3) By Faith – Keith and Kristyn Getty (with Stuart Townend). These modern hymn-writers from Northern Ireland are often lauded for their theological focus, and for good reason. This very singable tune recalls Hebrews 11 with its focus on reading Scripture through the eyes of faith. They have also given us…
4) In Christ Alone – Getty/Townend, with its fitting title. I won’t tell the copyright police if you change the one troubling lyric in verse 2 from “’Til on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” to “the wrath of God was set aside.” This keeps the cross a loving act of both Father and Son rather than having God take out his vengeance on Jesus (a distortion of biblical atonement theology).*
5) Speak, O Lord – Getty/Townend. One more from this duo. God’s Word is a correlative focus of Reformation, and this song asks God to continue to speak to us today.
6) Every Promise – Getty/Townend. Ditto. Last one, I promise. “I’ll stand on every promise of your word.”
7) Your Grace Is Enough – Matt Maher (also recorded by Chris Tomlin). Good, easy to sing, upbeat opener or closer.
8) Rock of Ages – Rita Baloche. Another rocker. A bit older, but it’s got a good classic rock groove and is loved by many congregations.
9) Thy Mercy – Sandra McCraken’s update of the old John Stocker hymn was also recorded by her husband Derek Webb and Caedmon’s Call.
10) A Mighty Fortress – Aaron Schust and Christy Nockels have both recorded songs by this name if you’re looking for updated versions of Luther’s classic language.
* An interesting related story: the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), in forming their new hymnal, asked Getty and Townend if they could change these lyrics to “the love of God was magnified.” They refused, reasoning that it would result in a watered down version of the gospel. I have to wonder how it would have gone if the hymnal committee would have presented my suggestion above to the hymn writers.
All Saints (Nov 3)
This is a day of remembering all those who have gone to be with God before us, but also to remember the ultimate hope that each of us has in Christ.
1) I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin. This poignant song celebrates the destiny each of us has because of Jesus’ resurrection.
2) For Those Who Are to Come – Matthew Anderson. I wrote this one specifically for All Saints, to look forward as well as back. Listen and find lyrics/chords here.
3) Gracious Host – Matthew Anderson. I hesitate to put two of my own songs here, but this is my most oft-sung worship song. Based on Isaiah and Revelation’s visions of the great feast of nations at the coming of God’s kingdom, it is quite appropriate for this day. Again, find a recording, lyrics, and chords here. It could also work for Christ the King.
4) We Fall Down – Tomlin. Another song celebrating that moment when we will join all the saints worshipping before the throne.
5) Come Let Us Worship – Tomlin. “For we will never be forsaken.”
6) You Never Let Go – Matt Redman. This one could also work for Reformation.
Christ the King (Nov 24)
The church year ends with a festival worshipping Jesus as king, as the New Testament asserts over and over. But we have a king that rules not by coercive force, but by the power of self-giving love. Just a list here – I’ll put them in order from faster to slower tempo. Lots of “epic” going on here as you move down this list.
1) Here is Our King – David Crowder.
2) Let God Arise – Chris Tomlin. This was also on my Advent list, and would also work for Reformation. Now is a great time to introduce it!
3) My Redeemer Lives – Reuben Morgan (Hillsong).
4) O Praise Him – Crowder.
5) Manifesto – City Harmonic
6) Lord Reign in Me – Brenton Brown.
7) Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle.
8) Be Unto Your Name – Travis Cottrell.
9) Overcome – Jon Egan. Just look at the passion in this recording from a church who had just gone through a lot.
10) Wonderful King – Crowder.
It’s interesting to note how the strengths of three of modern worship’s most prolific writing teams come out in these three festivals. Getty and Townend shine with their emphasis on faith and God’s Word (Reformation); Tomlin’s focus is often on the church worshipping together as one body (All Saints), and Crowder often sings about Jesus’ kingship (Christ the King).