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Sermon: The healing power of hymns

Posted: Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Part of heart-felt worship is the inclusive use of congregational hymns. The melody may be familiar, or it may be something altogether new, but the lyrics hold within them the ability to mix with that music, creating a feeling of reverence and awe for our Creator. So too, music and text, blended together pleasingly, have the ability to soften the heart, to give peace to the troubled soul, and to encourage travelers in our journey, especially during difficult times.

Consider the Naval Hymn “For Those in Peril on the Sea.” It is often used by both American as well as British citizens at times of distraught, angst, and broken hearts germane to the death of sailors during war time. It is used movingly and effectively at the funerals of leaders of state as well as those that sacrificed their lives for country. The first verse refers to Psalms 107 wherein the Lord forbids the further flooding of the earth with waters. The second verse refers to Jesus’ miracle of stilling the storm and walking on the Sea of Galilee. Over time, this moving hymn has been adapted to others in dire circumstances, including arctic exploration, submariners, aviators, the Coast Guard, military families, doctors, nurses, and astronauts.

As we sojourn our time and experiences here, we too, like sailors, sometimes find ourselves in dire straits. When the burden becomes heavy, like Christ transporting the cross, we take comfort in knowing we are not alone. We know that our prayers are heard.

Eternal Father, strong to save

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep

Its own appointed limits keep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,

For those in peril on the sea.

The lyrist Emma Thayne referred to John 14:27; 16:33, when both asking and answering the age old question:

Where Can I Turn for Peace?

Where is my solace when other sources cease to make me whole?

When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,

I draw myself apart, searching my soul?

Who — who can understand?

In the following verse to this beloved hymn comes the answer:

He, only One.

He answers privately, reaches my reaching

In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.

Gentle, the peace he finds for my beseeching.

Constant he is, and kind; Love without end.

Joining in with heartfelt worship, singing and pondering the texts to our hymns can provide us a focal point of our worship, a sense of peace and comfort, and the resolve to continue the journey with faith in Jesus Christ, affirming that our crosses and our burdens are understood by the One who bore all.

By KC Rasmussen

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

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