Singing Stewardship

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I’m writing this week’s post while leading parts of a Worship and Music Conference in beautiful Montreat, North Carolina. After singing dozens of hymns in daily worship over the past two weeks, my mind is draw to — what else? — hymns that touch on stewardship. I only have time to touch upon three below and invite you to consider your congregation’s favorites.

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders

Singing Stewardship

Adam J. Copeland

One great piece of stewardship advice often given is to talk about money when not asking for it. But what about singing about money when not asking for it? What do our hymns teach us about Christian stewardship?

Rejecting Idols

Money, possessions, and the pursuit of idols comes up more often in hymns than you might expect. An example that immediately comes to mind is, “Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult,” a hymn composed by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1852. The hymn connects Jesus’ calling of Andrew the disciple to Christ’s call to us today, “Christian, follow me.” It’s a call to follow. The hymn makes clear, however, it’s also a call from.

2 Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, “Christian, love me more.”

3 In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love me more than these.”

Following Jesus calls for a service and following more powerful than the allure of money, possessions, and other things of cultural value. The hymn sings that love of God requires an “obedience,” serving God above all other desires.

Stewarding Place

Marty Haugen’s beautiful hymn “Let Us Build a House” (also called, “All Our Welcome”) approaches another sort of stewardship. Each of the five stanzas begins with the encouragement, “Let us a build a house…” This longed-for house of worship will be a place where love dwells, dreams flourish, and all find place to feel welcome, serve, and teach. The final verse sings:

  1. Let us build a house where all are named,
    their songs and visions heard
    and loved and treasured,
    taught and claimed as words within the Word.
    Built of tears and cries and laughter,
    prayers of faith and songs of grace;
    let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
    all are welcome; all are welcome; all are welcome in this place.

The text was written for a church dedication, so it fittingly speaks to the nature of spiritual community that builds, maintains, and strengthens physical space. It’s about the stewardship of both the worship space and the spiritual life of those who helped build it.

Call to Action

Miriam Therese Winter’s hymn, “O for a World” is a declaration of the world God longs for. When singing it, the congregation becomes part of God’s longing, called into God’s service. The hymn’s language can be shocking for us so used to other ways of being, but its second verse puts it plainly:

O for a world where goods are shared
and misery relieved,
where truth is spoken, children spared,
equality achieved.

The hymn continues with a brief summary of God’s upside-down wisdom:

The poor are rich; the weak are strong;
the foolish ones are wise.
Tell all who mourn: outcasts belong,
who perishes will rise.

Hymns like this can push our stewardship thinking beyond mere worldly wisdom, getting sucked into spreadsheets and giving statements while forgetting the mission to which God call us.

Rich worship and music draws the congregation into stewardship thinking because stewardship is consistent with the gospel. I invite you to note other times in your congregation’s hymns and songs that draw out stewardship’s invitation.

More Information

Adam J. Copeland is the Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary.

We invite you to attend, “Beyond Abundance: Faithful Stewardship Language to Fit Our Realities” a daylong stewardship conference at Luther Seminary, Aug. 23, 2017 (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.). For more information, and to register, visit this website.

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