By Rev. Mike Gudka St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
My articles for this month have been a little different than what I have done in the past. For these articles I am looking at the history behind some of the great old hymns that many have come to know and love. Many of these hymns have an interesting past; they come from many different people and church denominations, and help tell a powerful story of what we believe. They can comfort us, bring back strong memories, and help us draw closer to Christ.
This week I am going to look at the hymn “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” This song comes out of my Methodist or Wesleyan tradition. Many have referred to it as the “Methodist anthem.” It was written by Charles Wesley and it proclaims two aspects of Wesleyan theology: God’s saving grace and invitation to follow Christ.
Within the Methodist tradition, John Wesley did not leave us with large books of church theology found in other churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Churches, and the Churches that follow Calvin’s theology. Instead, John Wesley provided us with songs. The songs found in the United Methodist Hymnal represent our “book of Wesleyan theology.” When I explained this to a non-Methodist pastor friend of mine, his replay was, “Oh, now that explains why you Methodist sing all the verses to every hymn!”
Although this hymn comes out of the Methodist tradition it is enjoyed by many Christians worldwide. And in keeping with the Methodist tradition, it is a long one; it has seven verses! Remember, as Methodists, we sing our theology. So the next time you sing this hymn, be inspired and lifted up as you sing, “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace!”