In an age of unprecedented division, when so many people around us experience racism, hatred, deportations, and fear, the church is called into unity and a spirit of Pentecost hospitality, working toward the day of re-creation. On that day everything will be made new, and all will join together around the heavenly throne, singing praises to the heavenly King in a beautiful chorus of many languages: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).
It is common to come into a church and hear music. Singing, on the other hand, is another issue.
I have worked at several kinds of churches, including Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and non-denominational. I’ve been a choir director, worship leader, and organist. I’ve noticed a common thread about singing running through every church: Each has a pastoral musician whom they trust.
It’s been five hundred years since the Protestant Reformation, a good time to remember the new ways of singing the psalms in the sixteenth century that now, however, seem very old. But the psalms are so much older! The oldest psalm, Psalm 90, which we sing as “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” was probably written by Moses.
Songs of Thankfulness and Praise
Christopher Wordsworth, the author of this text, may not be as well known today as his famous uncle, William. But during his lifetime (1807-85) Christopher distinguished himself as a scholar, professor, pastor, and eventually a bishop in the church of England.
Bishop Wordsworth included this hymn in his Holy Year: or Hymns for Sundays, Holidays, and Other Occasions Throughout the Year, with the following heading: