Praise to God (Whirlwinds)

Praise to God, immortal praise
For the love that crowns our days
Bounteous Source of every joy
Let thy praise our tongues employ
For the blessings of the field
For the stores the gardens yield
For the joy which harvests bring
Grateful praises now we sing
Flocks that whiten all the plain
Yellow sheaves of ripened grain
All that spring with bounteous hand
Scatters o’er the smiling land
All that gen’rous autumn pours
From her overflowing stores
These, great God, to thee we owe
Source whence all our blessings flow
But Lord, should rising whirlwinds tear
From the stem it’s ripening ear
Should the fig tree’s bloss’ming shoot
Drop her green untimely fruit
Should the vine put forth no more
Nor the olive yield her store
Though the sick’ning flocks should fall
And the herds desert the stall
Should thy holy hand restrain
Th’early and the latter rain
Blast each op’ning bud of joy
And the rising year destroy
Should the vine put forth no more
Nor the olive yield her store
Should the rising whirlwinds come and tear the song from out our lungs
Yet to thee my soul shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise
And when every blessing’s flown
Love thee for thyself alone

 

LINER NOTES

“I found this text in the blue Hymnal: A Worship Book resource, which was put together in the ‘80s and finished in the early 90s. Hymns number 91 and 92 in the HWB are both part of a poem by Anna Barbauld, who wrote the text in 1772. I liked the idea of putting the two halves back together in one setting, and I especially liked the idea of combining these two ideas that seem to be in tension with one another. The half of the poem that serves as the text for number 91, Praise to God, immortal praise is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving; there is bounty in the fields, the flocks are whitening the plain, there are overflowing stores, life is fairly fantastic, and thus, God is to be praised. The second half of the poem, found in number 92, Lord, should rising whirlwinds, paints a picture of the flipside. Everything has fallen apart and destruction reigns. The last two lines are the reason I wanted to include this text in the collection. ‘Yet to thee my soul shall raise grateful vows and solemn praise / and when every blessing's flown, love thee for thyself alone.’ Those are words we need to hear. It is easy to see God in all that is good, but God is good all the time, even when when the whirlwinds tear the songs from our lungs.”  - Greg

“Many of the band members grew up in farming families and communities. Texts like this always remind me of my dad who worked the soil to provide for our family. He had a very real understanding of how his work alone wasn’t enough. He needed God’s provision and grace both on his farm and in his life. This song is a beautiful reminder of who is in control of it all and how He carefully and beautifully provides for His people through the blessings and bounties of His creation. The first two verses remind us of all that we have to be grateful for. He also carefully and beautifully provides for us through the events that surpass our liking and understanding. The third verse of this song is where we hear of the very real difficulties that we will face in our lives. There are moments in our lives where “the rising whirlwinds come and tear the songs from out our lungs.” When my dad passed away suddenly, the song was torn from my lungs for a long time. However, amongst these great difficulties, our lives will ever point to Him. We’ll love Him for who He is, not our circumstance. ‘And when every blessing’s flown, love thee for thyself alone.’ What a powerful vow!” - Mike

Michael – Lead Vocals; Rachel – Harmony Vocals; Adam – Banjo; Greg – Guitar; Seth – Piano; Kristina – Violin; Jackson – Bass

Text: Anna L. Barbauld, 1772 Music: Gregory J. Yoder, 2015

Heard the Voice

I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Come unto me and rest;
lay down, oh weary one, lay down your head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was, weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place, and he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink, and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in him.

Oh amazing grace how sweet the sound
From heaven raining down I

heard the voice of Jesus say, "I am this dark world's light;
look unto me, your morn shall rise, and all your days be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I'll walk till my traveling days are done.

Oh amazing grace how sweet the sound
From heaven raining down

 

LINER NOTES

“This song is a great reminder of Jesus calling us into relationship with Himself. Heard the Voice really captures His love for us and the way we are welcomed wherever we are in life. The new foot tapping tune to this old hymn gets me excited about what to expect when going to the comforting arms of Christ.” - Rachel 

Rachel – Lead Vocals; Adam – Banjo; Greg – Mandolin; Seth – Guitar, Harmony Vocals; Kristina – Violin; Jackson – Bass, Harmony Vocals

Text: Horatius Bonar, 1846 with chorus by Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015; Music: Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015

Fierce Raged the Tempest

Fierce raged the tempest o’er the deep
Watch did your anxious servants keep
But you were wrapped in guileless sleep
Calm and still

Save, Lord, we perish, was their cry
O save us in our agony
Your word above the storm rose high
Peace be still

The wild winds hushed, the angry deep
Sank like a little child to sleep
The sullen billows ceased to leap
At your will

So when our life is clouded o’er
And stormwinds drift us from the shore
Say, lest we sink to rise no more
Peace, be still
Peace, be still
It is well with my soul. 

 

LINER NOTES

“The story of Jesus calming the waves is powerful. It’s easy for any of us to enter into the disciples’ shoes and relate to their emotions. They were powerless and fearful at the current situation. Afraid of capsizing and perishing, they rush to Christ who is sleeping on the boat. He awakes and calms the winds, waves, and hearts with three words, “Peace! Be Still!”

"The text of this song lays out this story beautifully and gives believers some very important reminders. The last verse is incredibly powerful in urging us towards Christ in the times when life is clouded. When storms arise. When death is around us. When we are powerless. “Say lest we sink to rise no more, Peace be still.”

"The prayer for our music and mission in bringing it is that you, too, would find the comfort and peace of following a Savior who calms storms with ease and brings His beloved near.” - Mik 

Michael – Lead Vocals; Rachel – Harmony Vocals; Adam – Banjo; Greg – Accordion; Seth – Guitar; Kristina – Violin; Jackson – Bass, Harmony Vocals

 Text: Godfrey Thring, 1862; Music: Seth Crissman, 2015

Light Upon the Mountains

There’s a light upon the mountains, and the day is at the spring,
When our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King:
Weary was our heart with waiting, and the night watch seemed so long,
But His triumph day is breaking, and we hail it with a song.

In the fading of the starlight we may see the coming morn;
And the lights of all are paling in the splendors of the dawn;
For the eastern skies are glowing as with light of hidden fire,
And the hearts of all are stirring with the throbs of deep desire.

He is breaking down the barriers, He is gathering up the way;
He is calling for His angels to build up the gates of day:
But His angels here are human, not the shining hosts above;
For the drum beats of His army are the heartbeats of our love.

Hark! we hear a distant music, and it comes with fuller swell;
’Tis the triumph song of Jesus, of our King, Immanuel!
Go ye forth with joy to meet Him! And, my soul, be swift to bring
All thy sweetest and thy dearest for the glory of our King!

Come, thou long expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee

 

LINER NOTES

“This hymn, originally written around the turn of the 20th century, first caught our eye because of the unique imagery of the third verse: ‘...the drumbeats of His army are the heartbeats of our love...’ What a powerful mandate and image for us as Christians in the church! It is also a song of active expectation and hope, and we felt like tagging on the first lines of ‘Come Thou Long Expected Jesus’ really helped to capture that.” - Jackson

Michael – Harmony Vocals; Rachel – Harmony Vocals; Adam – Banjo; Greg – Bass; Seth – Guitar; Kristina – Violin; Jackson – Lead Vocals

Text: Henry Burton, 1910; Music: Jackson T. Maust and Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015

Song of Confession

We have sinned against each other
Take our sins away
We’ve betrayed our sister and brother
Take our sins away
Teach us how to love our neighbor
Take our sins away
Teach our hands to do your labor
Take our sins away

And all the times that we have forgotten the depths of your great love
And all the times that we have forgotten the depth of your great love
Take our sins away

Teach us how to have compassion
And take our sins away
Spur our words into action
Take our sins away
When we fail to turn and listen
Take our sins away
Building up the walls of division
Take our sins away

And all the times that we have forgotten the depths of your great love
And all the times that we have forgotten the depth of your great love
Take our sins away

 

LINER NOTES

"We have failed to turn and listen.’ In Hebrew Scriptures, the word often used for repent is 'shv,' meaning to turn or return. In our unwillingness to turn and listen to the LORD, we have failed to be shaped into the people that God calls us to be as the people of God. We have acted on behalf of our own interests, instead of the interests of others.   We who are in positions of power have too often neglected those who are vulnerable and ignored those who are oppressed.   We have suffered from spiritual amnesia: We have forgotten ‘the depths of Your great love.’ We have said Gospel words, and failed to show Gospel actions. We have failed, and forgotten. We have sinned.   Lord, teach us how to love our neighbors and embody your Love. May we together confess, turn, listen, remember, and respond to the love that God has first shown us.” - Seth

“The Song of Confession might be the most important song on the album. This text is original to Seth, and I am so thankful for it and to know a songwriter/theologian like him. In this song he has articulated something that we desperately need to be saying to each other. I think about all the systemic injustices that I am complicit in and I know I need to be singing this song. When I heard about the tragedy in Charleston, SC and I read online posts wondering what the response of the white church should be, the only thing I could think was the Song of Confession: ‘We have sinned against each other / Take our sins away / We've betrayed our sister and brother / Take our sins away.’ I know it's not enough, but I think I've got to start by singing this song, and I'm so thankful to Seth and the Spirit for adding it to my musical vocabulary.” - Greg

Seth – Piano, Lead Vocals; TWRB – Harmony Vocals

Music and Lyrics © Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015 

Sinking Down

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down, oooooooh
When I was sinking down, Christ laid aside His crown, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul

Envy shares a bed with Consumerism, they like two symbiotic organisms, hers and hisms,
Poppin’ like pugilism, propping up feudalism, do you understand my [radio edit] syllogism?
Man, they like the Dream Team, envy generating all the green
our consumption-based economy needs to keep its machine clean with that sickening sheen,
Like Charlie or Martin, now I’m startin to get mean
Envy is like oil, slick, quick, thick, tricky, hard to quit, it keeps the parts from sticking,
and we just keep on licking it up, and bricking it up, build a tall wall of all the stuff
But I think I heard a way to tear the wall down
If we take the stuff we have and just share it all around
We might not end up with tons, but the truth is,
We’ll have more than enough with the five loaves and two fish

Violence is not an aberration, it’s a manifestation of a sickness in the nation
Whether Lebanese or Haitian, Russian, Prussian, Czech, Croatian
Or American, there again it could be Roman or Galatian
Violence is a symptom, like a shaking in the knees,
And at its root is a disease, attacking in ones or twos or threes
These are numbers that can hunker in a bunker, like a skunk or like a mole
Running scared into his hole, a world he can control
But we can’t control the world, ain’t that it?
Can’t protect the ones we love from all of life’s nastiest bits
And we’re afraid they might get hurt, and we’re afraid that danger’s near,
And we’re afraid of all this violence that is caused by all our fear
And the fear is near and dear to some, I fear that much is clear
It’s a devastating tool that kicks the machine into high gear
But its hand is overplayed, and its welcome overstayed
Because I’ve heard the Good News and it begins, Do Not Be Afraid!

Me, I often try to do it all on my own, you know go it alone
I’m the Ranger they call Lone, the only danger is I don’t think that Jesus condones
That kind of blindness, remember them asking ‘bout casting them stones?
Couldn’t see in themselves what they saw in others’ lives
Meanwhile my brother strives to find himself safely inside the cleft that hides
the best of why we’re blessed by community, It’s unity, but not impunity, not immunity to pain,
To heartache, to sadness, it’s not eternal gladness, There’s goodness and there’s badness
But there’s Good News, and that is The Word became Flesh and made His dwelling among us
A light shines in the darkness, and Darkness will not overcome u 

 

LINER NOTES

“This song started before the Hymn Reclamation Project even began, way back in the days when I had first moved to Virginia and I hadn't yet started making music with the friends who would eventually become The Walking Roots Band. I was doing a little songwriting challenge with a buddy from college, and he challenged me to write a song about Envy. So I put one together real quick, sent it to him, and didn't think much more about it.

"One day when Seth and I were working on writing for the second round of the Hymn Reclamation Project, we just started jamming on the line ‘When I was sinking down’ from "What Wondrous Love is This," a 19th century hymn text from an anonymous source. For whatever reason, the first verse from the Envy song came to my mind, so I just started rapping it while we jammed. Seth got into it, and the concept was born. We wanted to pair the chorus with verses that highlighted things we see causing us to sink down. For this song we chose consumerism/greed, violence/fear, and the myth of self-sufficiency and independence.

“The writing of a rap song is a funny process for me. I'm so fascinated by the sounds of words, I kind of get into a zone of concentration where I'm strictly focused on the rhymes and following them to their next stop. I'm sometimes surprised when I step back and realize that the words actually mean something and might actually speak some truth. In this song, I'm struck by what happened in the second verse. I have been challenging myself to take notice of the places in my life where fear is the motivation for the choices I make. It is sort of terrifying and exhilarating to recognize those instances and to then remember God's love and the admonition to ‘be not afraid’, and to THEN allow your decisions to actually be shaped by the strength of God's love. So do not be afraid; the Light shines in the Darkness, and the Darkness will not overcome it.” - Greg

Michael – Lead Vocals (chorus); Rachel – Harmony Vocals; Adam – Banjo, Harmony Vocals; Greg – Guitar, Rap vocals; Seth – Cajon, Harmonica; Kristina – Violin, Harmony Vocals; Jackson – Bass, Harmony Vocals

Text: chorus lyrics from “What Wondrous Love”, Anon. c. 1811 with verses by Gregory J. Yoder, 2015; Music: Gregory J. Yoder and Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015

O Have Mercy

O have mercy, have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see

O have mercy, have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me

Twas grace that taught my heart fear, and grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed

O have mercy, have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me

Through many dangers toils and snares I have already come
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home

O have mercy, have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me
O have mercy, Lord have mercy on me

 

LINER NOTES

“A few years ago, we were a part of a large music gathering that showcased several different styles of music, each with a different way of communicating the gospel. To tie the different acts together, the organizers requested that each group play its version of Amazing Grace. We excitedly agreed to this, then quickly realized that we’d never really played a version of Amazing Grace. With this purpose, Seth crafted a chorus, then arranged the powerful verses of Amazing Grace to fit.

"I love this arrangement because it takes a different tone than the original. While Amazing Grace is somewhat soulful and sweet, O Have Mercy is more intense. Its cry for mercy underscores what the original clearly proclaims: that we once were lost, but through the mercy of Christ were are found.” - Jackso 

Michael – Lead Vocals; Rachel – Lead Vocals; Adam – Banjo; Greg – Mandolin; Seth – Guitar; Kristina – Violin; Jackson – Bass

Text: John Newton, 1779 with chorus by Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015; Music: Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015

There's a Wideness

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
Which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner
There is grace enough for all
There is mercy for the lost ones
Who can turn and heed the call

But we make God’s love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify its strictness
With a zeal God will not own.
Forgive us, Lord.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be illumined
In the presence of our Lord.

But we make God’s love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify its strictness
With a zeal God will not own.
Forgive us, Lord. 

 

LINER NOTES

“Even though I'd sung this hymn many times throughout my childhood, the first time I heard Greg play this song in our living room, it was as though I was hearing these words for the first time. For me, this song serves as a reminder of God's broad unending mercy as well as a caution about deciding when and to whom God's love is extended. God's great love is available to all, and in that love we can find freedom. May we extend a simpler, wider, kinder grace to those we encounter as a reflection of this great love.” - Kristina

Greg – Guitar, Lead Vocals; Kristina – Harmony Vocals; Jackson - Bass; Justin Yoder – Cello

Text: Frederick W. Faber, 1854, ed. Gregory J. Yoder; Music: Gregory J. Yoder, 201 

Lament

How long, oh Lord, how long? 
Will you forget me, am I forsaken?
How long will you hide your face?
Oh Lord, I am shaken

See how I pass my weary days
In sighs and groans; and when it’s night
My bed is watered with my tears;
My grief consumes, and it dims my sight.

How long, oh Lord, how long? 
Will you forget me, am I forsaken?
How long will you hide your face?
Oh Lord, I am shaken

Look, how the powers of nature mourn!
How long, how long, Almighty God, how long?
When shall your hour of grace return?
When shall I make your grace my song?

How long, oh Lord, how long?
Will you forget me, am I forsaken?
How long will you hide your face?
Oh Lord, I am shaken

I feel my flesh so near the grave, oh my soul
My soul is tempted to despair;
But graves can never praise the Lord,
For all is dust and silence there.

How long, oh Lord, how long?
Will you forget me, am I forsaken?
How long will you hide your face?
Oh Lord, I am shaken
How long, oh Lord, how long?
Will you forget me, am I forsaken?
How long will you hide your face?
Oh Lord, I am shaken

 

LINER NOTES

“In the spring of 2014, Seth, Theresa, Kristina and I were privileged to lead music at a retreat for Virginia Mennonite Conference pastors. The theme had to do with trauma, and we were lead carefully and courageously through the weekend by Mary Thiessen Nation. I don't remember if Mary asked Seth to do it or if he just did it himself, but Seth wrote a hymn of Lament using an Isaac Watts text and an original chorus. When he played it for us, I remember thinking, ‘Yes. Yes! This is what we need! The church needs more songs of lament.’

When we first sang this song, I would think of people I knew who had experienced great loss, and I sang for those people. I wanted to give voice to their pain and to let them know that crying out and shouting at God was OK. Then when I actually experienced a traumatic loss, it became almost impossible to sing. I couldn't even cry out or shout at God. I needed my brothers and sisters in the band to keep singing this song for me...I needed for us to have a song that expressed some of the anger, some of the hurt, some of the despair that I was feeling. And that's the power of Jesus' love and Jesus' body, the church. It's people not being afraid to come sit with me in the darkness, people not being afraid to sing the songs that I cannot sing, people being OK and holding me when I cannot see the Light. So, if you need the Lament, let us sing it for you. And if you are lucky enough not to need it now, sing it for your brothers and sisters who do.” - Greg

Michael – Lead/Harmony Vocals; Rachel – Lead/Harmony Vocals; Adam – Harmony Vocals; Greg – Lead/Harmony Vocals; Seth – Piano/Harmony Vocals; Kristina – Harmony Vocals; Jackson – Harmony Vocals

Text: Isaac Watts, 1719 with chorus by Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015; Music: Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015 

Each Morning Brings

Each morning brings us fresh outpoured
The loving kindness of the Lord
It ends not as the day goes past
But gives us strength while life shall last

It gives us strength for God’s own will
That we may love and follow still
When evening’s sun is sinking low
And we have further yet to go

To go and show God’s love we’re called,
For we are the hands and feet that walk;
So walk, whether night or brightest day,
That we might always -- come what may --
Be Jesus’ feet and Jesus’ hands,
Through waters high, over sun-parched lands,
Carrying the peace of God’s kingdom
And the love we see when the morning comes

 

LINER NOTES

“This text, written in the 1500s by Johannes Zwich, often comes to mind as I watch the sun rise over the mountains on my morning commute. No matter what the previous day held, each morning brings a fresh opportunity to draw strength from Christ's love as well as to be ambassadors of Jesus' teachings to those we meet. The renewing energy of the morning sun serves as a daily reminder of new beginnings and the mercy of another day to live into the call of Christ's mission.” - Kristina

“If you try to find this text in your hymnal, you might have success finding the first verse, depending on which hymnal you consult. Written by Johannes Zwick in 1536, this verse captures what I feel when I get up at dawn to work a few hours in the field while it is still cool. I wrote verses 2, 3 and 4 of this version, starting each verse with some version of the last line of the verse before it to give it momentum. It is really important for us to pause, whether it is in the morning, in the evening, or at some other point in the day, and take in the beauty around us, remembering how amazing it is that God lovingly made this for us to experience. But it can't stop there, and that's why the movement in verses 2-4 is so important: this beautiful creation gives us strength, strength to follow and seek God's will, strength to go where God calls, strength to go and actually be God's love to other people, strength to share the hope in God's love that we see in that pinkish hue gradually washing over the garden.” - Greg

Greg – Vocals; Seth – Guitar

Text: Johannes Zwick, 1536 and Gregory J. Yoder, 2015; Music: Gregory J. Yoder, 201 

Sought the Lord

I sought the Lord and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me
It was not I that found o Savior true
No I was found of thee

Thou did reach forth, thy hand in mine enfold
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea
Twas not so much that I on thee took hold
As thou, dear Lord, on me

I find, I walk, I love, but oh the whole
Of love is but my answer Lord to thee
For thou wert long beforehand with my soul
Always thou lovedst me

 

LINER NOTES

“This song tends to sneak up on me as I sing it. It's easy to think about us following and searching for God, but God, ever faithfully, seeks us as we are, wherever we are. God has loved us long before we came to be, and meets us wherever we are.

"We really enjoyed Seth letting his fingerstyle guitar skills loose on this song. The two guitars play off of one another in a kind of dance that is so fun to sing with.” - Jackson

Jackson – Vocals; Greg – Guitar; Seth – Guitar

Text: Anonymous, 1878; Music: Gregory J. Yoder, 2015

Rather Have Jesus

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today

 

LINER NOTES

“Seth remembers this tune from his home church growing up, and every time I hear this song, I am reminded of the goodness and graciousness of our Savior. Rather Have Jesus is a great picture of who Jesus is; ‘He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; sweeter than honey from out the comb.’” - Rachel

Rachel – Lead Vocals; Greg – Banjo; Seth – Guitar, Harmonica; Kristina – Violin, Harmony Vocals; Jackson – Bass, Harmony Vocals

Text: Rhea F. Miller, 1922; Arr. Seth Thomas Crissman, 2015

What Wondrous Love

What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul?
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul?
What wondrous love is this, like a light that through the mist
Guides this wayward ship safely home

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down, and the storm was all around
Love laid aside His crown for my soul

And when through waters deep I am called, I am called
And when through waters deep I am called
And when through waters deep the Shepherd beckons to his sheep
I trust that Love will lead this wandering soul

What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul?
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul?
What wondrous love is this, like a light that through the mist
Guides this wayward ship safely hom 

 

LINER NOTES

“This arrangement has been meaningful for me as a way of simplifying an already simple message. The title is a question so big I may live out my life trying to answer it. It's often the simple questions that are hardest to answer, but are the most life giving and rewarding to find answers to. Our hope is this song will help you ask a question you may have thought already answered. Can you re-think and comprehend God’s great love?” - Adam

Michael – Harmony Vocals; Rachel – Harmony Vocals, “Trumpet”; Adam – Lead Vocals; Greg – Guitar; Seth – Guitar; Jackson – Bass

Text: Anonymous, c. 1811 and Gregory J. Yoder, 2015; Music: Gregory J. Yoder, 2015

Let Us Break Bread Together

Larry Trapp joined the KKK in 1988
Spoke violence to his neighbors, made them his enemies, and spread hate
But hate abates where love awaits and creates
The kind of meal a Jewish man dished out on paper plates
Rabbi Michael Weisser heard the threatening calls on his phone
Called Larry Trapp back and with love in his voice asked, “Can I come to your home?”
Brought carry-out fried chicken, said, “Brother, you don’t have to go it alone”
And about a month later, helped Larry chuck the Klan stuff he owned
Jesus knew the power of a meal, power to heal, how it could make you feel
Not just good food, but sitting down, sharing space, being real
Being together, whether brothers and sisters or enemies
That’s a love we can live for, that’s what love is meant to be

Let us break bread together on our knees
Let us break bread together on our knees
And when you and I don’t see eye to eye, we disagree
Let us break bread together on our knees

Do you remember the story of Zaccheus?
Little dude, heard about this cat Jesus, said “gotta see to believe this”
Some facts about Zac, he collected tax, had a lyin’, cheatin’ knack, for snatching people’s fat stacks
But when he sat down with Jesus, had a change of heart and gave the cash back
Jesus knew how to love the enemy though it had to be hard
Broke bread, looked through the hate, saw the very face of God
When I was a kid growing up my mom was a pastor
And some kids at school said “that’s a disaster, like Shasty McNasta,
A woman tryin’ to teach and preach? She’s going to get to hell faster,”
Just because you are a woman, mom? That don’t sound right, so I asked her
“Why would people not want you to serve God in the church?
Seems like they got their stuff all backwards, and they’re acting like jerks!”
Momma said, “these people are our brothers and sisters,
They just read the Bible different
Like Grace, the woman who says I shouldn’t be in the pulpit every time I visit
Grace loves God, Grace loves the church, loves being in it
She’s a feisty lady, and it’s hard, but I keep going and I love her every minute
When we get to heaven, we’re going have a reunion
And I’m looking forward to once again serving Grace at communion”

Let us break bread together on our knees
Let us break bread together on our knees
And when you and I don’t see eye to eye, we disagree
Let us break bread together on our knees

There was once a Michigan farmer named Ned
He got punched in the head so hard he almost bled to the point of being dead
Cops said, “Could you identify the punks before they fled?”
But Ned could not, because they hopped back into their car and away they sped
For four years he and his family wondered who had hit them
Ned realized his whole community had become the victim, they want to pitch in
Some of his brothers in the church wanted break skin in retaliation
Ned wanted to reconcile, but he had wait a while and be patient
Let’s make this long story short, get to the forgiveness
Four years later Ned meets the kids, forgives, gives love, is a witness
He even hosts a wedding for his attackers and he officiates
How about that for a story of love overcoming hate?
But hold on, it gets better, there’s a letter that comes from an aunt and it can’t be skipped
Because it just ties it all together, like a ribbon on a gift
She says, “The fact that you opened your home to them after what was done to you
Made a huge impact on the way the whole family views Christians.
“So many times they only see hypocrisy
But you have truly turned the other cheek, lived what you believe
Seeing Jesus in you may be the only Jesus they ever see
God’s love to you, and God’s peace”
Isn’t that it? Isn’t that love? Isn’t this how we want to be when the world sees us?
Love your enemies and you can show the world Jesus

Let us break bread together on our knees
Let us break bread together on our knees
And when you and I don’t see eye to eye, we disagree
Let us break bread together on our knees

 

LINER NOTES

“This song was birthed as an entry for the Anabaptist Songwriting Challenge, which I'll go on record as saying I think was misnamed. It turns out that they were looking for congregational singing, and a congregation singing song this is not. I am glad I didn't understand the criteria though, because I'm pleased with the result here. In this song we have part of an African American spiritual that serves as the chorus, and then each of the verses tells the true story of someone who ‘broke bread’ in the figurative sense with someone who the world might consider an enemy. Two of the stories came from a collection of stories called Hope Indeed!, edited by Gerald Shenk and published by Good Publishing. The stories of Rabbi Michael Weisser and a Michigan farmer named Ned are small stories of big actions that I think speak volumes about the transformative power of actually loving an enemy. My verses give you a sort of cursory summary, but both stories are worth checking out and reading in full.

I got permission to write about my mother, who has modeled breaking bread together for me my whole life. She said that the verse was ‘true enough,’ or something to that effect, and that's all I'll say about it, too. Except I will say again publicly how proud I am of my mother and her willingness to follow God's call, especially when it wasn't popular or easy or fun or enjoyable or safe. Love you, Mom.” - Greg

“Loving God and neighbor are two of the most esteemed instructions in both Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament. The call to love beyond those who love us is the call to following Jesus. Yet time and time again we fail to love our enemies with the love of Jesus... we even fail to even love each other within the church when we don't see perfectly eye to eye.

The stories in this song, as Greg articulates them, hold up example of individuals who chose to love in the face of disagreement, hatred, and violence. They poignantly offer a window into the lives of folks chose to love their enemies. 

When I first heard Let Us Break Bread, we were on tour in Ohio. I was so moved that I broke down completely, and sobbed. It was such a blessing to hear stories of hope, love and forgiveness.

‘When you and I don't see eye to eye... let us break bread together on our knees.’

In sitting down to physically and spiritually break bread together with each other especially when we are tempted to hate... we open ourselves up to the power of the Holy Spirit to move, transform, and bring healing and hope in the midst of brokenness and despair.   Truly, this is Good News, that God has loved us, and can empower us to love each other (enemies included). Let us draw near, come to the table together, and be transformed.” - Seth

Michael – Harmony Vocals; Rachel – Harmony Vocals; Adam – Banjo, Lead Vocals (Chorus); Greg – Rap vocals, Hammond C3 Organ, Piano; Seth – Cajon, Harmony Vocals, Hammond C3 Organ; Kristina – Violin, Harmony Vocals; Jackson – Bass, Harmony Vocals, Misc. Percussion;

African American spiritual, arr. Gregory J. Yoder, 2015 with verses by Gregory J. Yoder, 2015