Today’s hymn, “Come with newly written anthems” is by the same composer as yesterday’s and is another psalm setting (this time Ps.98). Although it has its own tune called “St Paul’s Cathedral” I sing it to a better known one, Abbot’s Leigh (likely to be in any popular hymn book).
The first verse praises God for his qualities – mercy, strength, holy kindness – and the fact that he never forgets or breaks his promises. The last verse speaks of God coming with justice, although more literal translations of Psalm 98 speak of God coming to “judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity (or truth)” which is a bit scarier. Some hymns, as we will no doubt see later in the year, are less about joyful praise and more about engaging with the righteousness and truth (i.e. being faithful to God in our actions and words).
In between these two, the middle verse focuses on our response to God, exhorting each other to be ‘creative’ in our worship as well as skilful. It also speaks of rejoicing, of having a thankful heart and cheerful voice. And most important of all, to “focus on the wonders of God’s greatness as you sing”. If hymn singing becomes just a routine, part of a sandwich of activities making up a church service in between readings and prayers, it can be easy just to go with the flow and not pay much attention either to the words or the emotions they seek to evoke. Which is one reason for this year-long challenge, in itself an exercise in being creative: to look at unfamiliar hymns as well as well known ones, ponder the words and sing them outside the context of church services. That way, I hope I can get ‘under the skin’ of them and a bit closer to ‘worshipping God with righteousness and equity’ as well as joyfully.