Last Thursday I put up my Statement of Faith, one I had written as a part of my examination to be recognized as a Presbyterian pastor in my new location. If you didn’t read it, you can find my Statement of Faith here. On Friday I explained why I used hymns and songs as a way to capture my faith. Today I want to add a bit more commentary.
I was impressed by the number of comments and emails I received from people who were encouraged by my use of music to give expression to my faith. There are many, many people who share my love of hymns and songs, both for their content and for the way they move the heart. I was most impressed by a comment I received from Robert Austell, a Presbyterian pastor who went through a process similar to mine. When it was time for him to share his Statement of Faith in only three minutes, he grabbed his guitar, stood up, and sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” (Note: I used a stanza of this fine hymn too.)
As I explained in my last post in this series, I chose most of the lyrics because they expressed, in poetic form, some central aspect of my faith. The first verse of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” for example, bears witness both to God’s holiness and to God’s triune nature. But some of the stanzas in my Statement of Faith were more confessional in nature. For example, the last verse of the hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” reads:
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
During the past year, as I was wrestling with the question of whether to remain as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church or uproot my family and move to Texas, that last line often put into words the deepest desire of my heart: to be ever, only, all for God.
You may have noticed that I framed my Statement of Faith with the first verse and then the refrain of “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I did so, in part, because this hymn expresses, perhaps better than any other, my faith in God. I have faith in God because of God’s faithfulness. I remain a Christian because of God’s faithfulness. I am forgiven because of God’s faithfulness. Were it not for God’s faithfulness, I would have no faith.
I chose to frame my Statement of Faith with “Great is Thy Faithfulness” not only because of this hymn’s core truth, but also because of the way it has framed my life. We sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” at my wedding in 1984, and at the memorial service of my father in 1986, and at my ordination in 1988, and at my installation at Irvine Presbyterian Church in 1991, and on my final Sunday at Irvine Presbyterian Church in 2007. This hymn has been my “best friend,” liturgically speaking, for more than two decades. And I’ve said that I want this hymn to be sung at my memorial service, which, I hope is still a long way off. (Photo: I was installed in what is now the Fellowship Hall of Irvine Presbyterian Church. Our sanctuary wasn’t built until 1996.)
My Statement of Faith bears witness, not only to the God in whom I put my faith, but also to the fact that Christian faith is both full of content and more than just content. Christian faith is theological and emotional. It is deeply personal and profoundly communal. It is propositional and poetic. It is, above all, a relationship with the living God, a relationship which, at its core, involves trusting in the God who is always faithful, and whose faithfulness is demonstrated most of all through Jesus Christ.