An old hymn has been given new words to unite Christians in prayer in the midst of war, and with hopes of providing a reprieve in the midst of lament, a former Winnipegger says.
"Last week, I received an email from our university chaplain asking for a prayerful musical tribute in honour of Ukraine for chapel this morning," Josh Guenther says on Wednesday evening.
"I had just read Lamentations 5 that morning. Lamentations is a fascinating book - Jeremiah expresses five chapters’ worth of laments and complaints, with a brief moment of reprieve right in the middle: 'But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.'" (Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV)
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The Linden Christian School graduate now works at Eastern University just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the school's tech director for their music department, oversees the chapel worship team, and teaches some courses. He points out that the beloved hymn 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness' was inspired by Lamentations 3.
He says Jeremiah's reprieve right in the middle of lament made him think of the current situation in Ukraine. "I realized that there was space for the second verse and an opportunity to write some new lyrics, and so that's what I ended up doing."
Guenther says his new lyrics are mirroring the themes from Lamentations and Jeremiah's plea to God to come and restore peace.
In times of war, there is fear of tomorrow.
Orphans and widows, our fathers are slain!
Who shall deliver us from our oppressors?
Peace be restored, O Lord; do not delay!
"I think the beauty of worship is that it allows us to speak words and pray for things that we may not even be able to come up with on our own," he says. "That the beauty of, whether it's liturgy or hymns that have been passed down generation to generation, we're able to join in this 'communion of the saints' experience."
Guenther says he hopes the new lyrics provide others a moment of reprieve in the midst of lament just like Jeremiah experienced.
Updated March 10, 12:20 p.m. to correct Eastern University from Temple University