This poignant song from Hillsong in Australia effectively draws upon the imagery and metaphor of the desert and offers the words of praise in both times of desert and harvest. The rhythm of the verses is syncopated, but it is repetitive enough that it should be easily learned by the congregation (the rhythm is very similar to the song “Days of Elijah,” if that is in your repertoire of congregational singing). The possibility of only teaching the congregation the chorus is an option, but the verses are vivid with enough imagery that it would be best for the congregation to sing them as well. Accompaniment for this song can be as simple as a piano playing quarter-note chords underneath the melody or an acoustic guitar with a driving rhythm, or it can be as complex as a whole band. Whatever resources you have in your congregation can make this an accessible option for this First Sunday in Lent. The ideal key is B minor (relative to D Major).
Jesus, Tempted in the Desert
EBENEZER is an ideal tune for use on this day, especially with this text by Herman Stuempfle, Jr. The hymn recalls the places in which Jesus was taken in the midst of his temptation and recreates the conversation between Jesus and the devil. The last stanza is the opportunity for the congregation to live into the text, consider what temptation is in today’s context, and pray for strength to withstand the tempter. Because of the length of the phrases and the pulse needed, the tune allows for a good deal of time to be spent in reflection upon this text. Make note, however, that this hymn takes longer to sing than other 87.87 D tunes, so plan accordingly. It has a march-like quality that can also be interpreted as defiant, but be sure to interpret each stanza so the accompaniment can vary. This will allow the narrative quality of the hymn to shine through, and it will keep the congregation from focusing on how long it takes to sing the hymn. The best accompaniment is by organ or another keyboard instrument, but the starkness of the wilderness can also be created by singing at least one stanza with the only accompaniment being a hand drum (use the rhythm found in the melody of the first measure - half note/quarter-note triplet/half note/half note - as a repetitive rhythm) and solo wind instrument on the melody. Bring all the instruments together on the final stanza. Read History of Hymns: " Jesus, Tempted in the Desert" »
This week, we suggest the use of this song during Communion. “You make beautiful things out of the dust” is a reminder of what God can do in the midst of our frailty and brokenness. Your congregation may already be familiar with this song through a vacation Bible school curriculum, but there is a suggestion to be made if you are only familiar with the recording by Gungor. You will notice in his recording that he eventually takes the chorus up one octave to a range unattainable by almost all congregations. My simple recommendation is to sing in the key of D, and continue singing the melody in its octave. To simulate the jump Gungor makes, a male voice could sing lead on the melody until the jump, at which point a female voice takes over. This will achieve the same octave leap, but typically people do not strain when they hear a female voice singing in a lower range. If this leap is not important in the worship dynamic you envision, feel free to sing in a lower range throughout. Accompaniment is best supported with a piano, guitar, or band.
I Want Jesus to Walk with Me
A Lenten favorite among many congregations, “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” is a spiritual that has a wailing character that seems to embody the desolation found in the Scripture this week. This hymn would be sung very slowly in many African American settings, and we encourage its use in that style. It has, however, also been used slightly faster when sung with a band as a blues option. Just make sure the tempo is not too brisk; it still needs to have a lamenting quality (“When my heart is almost breaking”). Accompany with an organ, piano, acoustic guitar, or band. You may also choose to adapt the time signature from 4/4 to 12/8 to offer a slow, swing version that has a bluesy pulse and character.
Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days
When singing this hymn, there is nothing wrong with using the LAND OF REST tune found in The United Methodist Hymnal. However, you might choose a different approach by using HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN. Dean McIntyre’s wonderful arrangement of this tune can be found in Worship & Song, No. 3072 (“Cast Out, O Christ”). Singing the hymn with this tune paints the wilderness with a certain harshness that will ultimately sit in stark difference to the milieu of Easter Sunday. The incorporation of this one tune helps characterize this Lenten series and enhance the baptismal vows we will affirm throughout the season. Even though the classic version of this tune you may know by The Animals is in A minor, we recommend D minor for congregational singing. Accompany with a heavy hand on the piano, or use guitar and/or full band.