Thursday, March 1: Here I Am, Lord
Here I Am, Lord (also known by its first line: “I, the Lord of Sea and Sky”) was written by Daniel Schutte in 1979 to be sung at a diaconate ordination. He had only four days to compose this song, as it was a last-minute request from a friend. The friend requested that the song include images of the word of God, the light of Christ, and the bread and wine. Schutte struggled to compose the song, and eventually asked God to help him do this for his friend and give him the right words to say. His prayers worked, as Schutte composed one of the most beloved hymns of all time. The National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) conducted an online survey in 2005 called “Songs that Make a Difference”, which asked respondents to name a song that had made a lasting impact on their lives of faith. Here I Am, Lord was second only to On Eagle’s Wings in that survey, and second to Be Not Afraid in a follow-up survey of favorite hymns done by The Catholic Spirit (the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis). However, this popular song also has its critics.
The body of the song is written in the first person with God describing who he is, what he will do for us, and how much he cares for us. Some people do not like singing as if they are God. It feels a bit uncomfortable to me as well, but I do appreciate how well the hymn describes God’s love for us and how much he wants and needs us to share this good news with others. It is not uncommon for people to have an emotional response to this song. Singing it in the first person possibly allows us to in some way feel what God feels.
Schutte’s scriptural reference for this hymn was Isaiah 6:8: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am; send me!'” To me, the first phrase describes God’s search for faithful messengers and the second is the response of faithful followers who request guidance (“if you lead me”) and who are eager to do whatever God asks.
Whether or not people like singing the words of this song, the message is clear. There is only one God. He has power over all of us yet is willing to sacrifice everything to save us. He expects everyone to care for and love others the same way he cares for and loves us. Finally, he promises to give us everything we need if we just take his hand and walk with him on this journey of life.