For ten years now, I have found myself serving in several churches of different traditions in the aspect of music ministry. The music simply doesn’t end there, but it has played an important role in my faith enrichment.
Born and raised as a Filipinista—member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Philippine Independent Church, or for some Aglipayan Church after the first bishop Msgr. Gregorio Aglipay)— my frequent attendance in church was due to my grandmother’s sister who would wake me up to attend Mass on Sunday mornings.
During those days, the old womenwho led the choir used hymns. And up to this day, I can still remember how they sang “Trust and Obey” and “Give of Your Best to the Master.”
The first hymn guides every believer that the key “to be happy in Jesus, is to trust and obey” and the latter gives an idea to always render the utmost level of worship and work, one which could best please God, the great boss of our lives.
As one goes mature in knowing God and in pursuing the ministry, I have learned to surrender and commit everything that has been in my life. The very well known Don Moen and Claire Cloninger song “I Offer My Life” has gone beyond its meaning and evokes emotions more so with the line “Lord, I offer my life to You, everything I’ve been through, use it for Your glory.”
On the other hand, the hymn “I Surrender All” served as an expression of my faith in God in the most trying times especially when my family was faced with the sickness and later the death of my mother. Few nights before she expired, I led my family in an evening devotion and as we sang the hymn, I saw how faith transpired in our midst. Though the situation was sad and depressing, I witnessed how sweet full surrender to God was.
If you happen to hear Mass in Roman Catholic churches here in the city, “Lord, Here I Am” of Fr. Cielo Almazan, OFM is one of the favorites. Crafted to serve as an ordination song to signify full commitment to God and the ministry, its lyrics inspire even ordinary believers. One of its striking lines is “I have left everything just to follow You” which gives a clear view of the sacrifices that need to be made in following Christ.
The same message is conveyed with the song “Take and Receive” by Fr. Manuel Francisco who’s behind the popular Catholic liturgical songs like “Hindi Kita Malilimutan,” “Tanging Yaman,” and “Sa’Yo Lamang.” And coming from a Catholic high school, the songs have become favorites and wellsprings of inspiration due to my involvement in the choir.
When tribulations come, there are also songs that best remind of God’s comforting presence and affection. Some of these songs I learned in high school are “Jesus, my Friend” and Michael Joncas’ “On Eagle’s Wings.” “Someone is There” and “Hwag Kang Mangamba” add to the long list of songs that make me feel at ease in difficult times as they both bear the message that because God is always there, though rough and tough.
Upon entering Silliman in 2006 as a mass communication student, I had the chance to join the SU Campus Choristers. In one of our rehearsals, the group sang “Bow the Knee.” I immediately fell in love with its lyrics and the tune as well. The song reminds believers to believe and trust in God and its last line never fails to inspire my weary soul as it says: “And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan, bow the knee.”
Though my father’s family is affiliated with United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), it was only during my college days that I have become acquainted with the reformed tradition because of frequent attendance in the worship services at SU Church which introduced me more into hymns of the faith. “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “Standing on the Promises of God” are two of my favorite hymns from which I can reflect upon my life and experiences.
Sometimes when I feel down, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” helps me reaffirm my faith and renews the trust that I have for God. Then one after the other, I could recall of the big trials and tribulations I’ve been through and I would begin to say my prayer of thanks to God.
Being the eldest from a family who has been through financial difficulties, I always am grateful to God for the faithfulness shown to our family. I think this is where my overflowing vigor to serve God springs. Though sometimes I would falter in my faith, as I looked back in the past, I would feel guilty why I had not given my all and served my best to God amid the countless blessings I have received.
My faith and trust in the Faithful God has been nourished through songs over the years regardless of denomination or from both foreign and local compositions.
Maturity in faith can never be measured by human capacity. Only God knows how mature a person is with relation to faith.
As with my case, singing “In Moments like These” at the deathbed of my mother while holding her hand, and watching her as she breathes her last, I could not help but think deeper how the Spirit has worked through the songs – to strengthen my once frail and weary soul.
And in this life journey, my constant prayer resounds the lines of the famed “Lead Me, Lord” of Arnel de Pano. The striking chorus, “You are my life I cannot live alone, let me stay by Your guiding love, all through my life, Lead me Lord,” connects to every believer’s desire to be led by God and to journey with God.
The songs we sing during worship may not affect us especially when we’re still young and still inside the comforts of our family and home, but it is my prayer that the lyrics, even just a few lines, will help every individual to be reminded of God during tough times and when the world seems so unbearable.
Hymns and songs alike, their moving melodies and striking lyrics, enrich our faith if understood fully. Such messages of these musical gifts help us strengthen our faith and trust in God.
May we always soar with God above the rising oceans and roaring thunders and let us bear in mind that whatever the world can offer, its luxuries and pleasures, it is only in God that our hearts and souls find rest (“Still” by Reuben Morgan).