Composing biblical songs: a case study — Hugh Wetmore

I have a sneaking suspicion that many people, especially pastors and preachers, could write relevant songs to support their sermons, but they don’t realise it.  Yet this is not such a difficult challenge as one might imagine.

As I opened my Bible for my devotional reading the other day, God’s Word grabbed my heart in a new, irresistible way.  It was Ephesians chapter one, in the New Living Translation (NLT).  I felt a new surge of gratitude for “every spiritual blessing” which God has showered on me “because I am united with Christ” (v3). The verses that followed are so extravagantly lavish in describing these blessings. 

Read Ephesians 1:1-14 for yourself, and ponder this lavish language.  “This must become a thanksgiving song”, I said to myself, “sung to a worthy tune that fits the mood”.  The first line formed in my mind: “I am so grateful for spiritual blessings”.  But then I noted how this should be a corporate description of corporate blessings, making it suitable for a congregational song. That would mean “we, us, our” words — not “me, I and my”.  I substituted “we” for “I”.  As I pondered the “attitude” of gratitude, the line reformed itself as, “We bow in humble reverence before the Father’s throne.”

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At this point I searched for a suitable tune. I counted the syllables: “We bow in humble reverence” (seven syllables) and “before the Father’s throne” (six syllables). The metre would be 7-6-7-6. It had much to say, so it would have eight lines, modifying the metre to 7-6-7-6-D (D for Double). Checking a metrical index in my favourite hymnal (Hymns for Today’s Church), I hummed the tune named Morning Light (“Stand up, stand up for Jesus”). It was vigorous but lacked a reverent tone, I thought. 

Then the tune Aurelia came to my mind — this seemed more reverent, and it had a foundational solidness suited to God’s guaranteed blessings:  “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord”.

Once the tune is chosen, it is easier to write lyrics that would fit the tune. Writing the song becomes a symbiotic process: words fit the tune; tune ensures the rhythm and strong-weak beats.

As I ponder the meaning of each scriptural verse, I try to express this, often in my own words.  “Meaning” is the key factor. Search for rhyming synonyms for the last word of each second line. 

“Uneven” metres require alternate line rhyming: abcb. “Even” metres (e.g. 8-8-8-8) prefer rhyming in paired lines: aabb.
Check RhymeZone by clicking on this hyperlink: RhymeZone.com                                                                                                      

Practice makes perfect! After many attempts, juggling words, the final version came out like this:

God’s Gracious Blessings

Ephesians 1: 3-11                   

We bow in humble reverence                        v3
before the Father’s throne.
So grateful that He loved us                           v4
and chose us for His own.
Adopted in His family,                                    v5
united with His Son!
How many are the blessings                           v3,6
that have in Christ begun!

What’s even more amazing:                           v5
all this has blessed God too!
Pouring out His glorious grace
is what He wants to do.
God is so rich in kindness,                               v7
He bought us with His blood,
forgave our sins and freed us
to be the sons of God.

We’re highly motivated                                  v6
to bring our gratitude
for giving us these blessings
in gracious plenitude:
all wisdom, understanding,                           v8
inheritance secure,                                         v11
the promised Holy Spirit –                               v13
all guaranteed for sure.

We’re privy to the secret                                v9
of God’s eternal plan
to bring all things together                             v10
under the Son of Man.
Then, God will give to Jesus                           
all power, authority
throughout all earth and heaven
to reign eternally.

Words: Hugh G Wetmore © 16.5.2021
Based on Ephesians 1:3-11
Metre: 7676D
Tune:  Aurelia (The church’s one foundation)

So go ahead, and in dependence on the Spirit of God, try your hand at writing a song for your next sermon.  It will embed its message in human hearts like only music can do!

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One Comment

  1. In Christ Jesus

    A wonderful encouragement & beautifully composed hymn to worship our risen Lord Jesus, our ever-loving Messiah!
    Many thanks Hugh G Wetmore