Hymn Texts

I’ve written a number of hymn texts that put contemporary words to familiar tunes. Here’s a list of them arranged by category. Each title links to a separate page with the hymn text. All of these texts are copyrighted. For the present time, I am extending open permission for anyone who wishes to photocopy them (or put them on powerpoint) for use in worship. No royalties must be paid. (This may change if these texts are published through a church publisher.)

Note that while I identify a tune to use with each set of lyrics, other tunes may fit them as well.

All that I ask is that whenever possible you notify me when you use a hymn.

NOW AVAILABLE: I have collected fifteen of my hymn texts and put them on a CD. Iowa City-based singer-song writer Sara Kay has recorded the vocals. The album was released in July 2013. To order a copy, go here. A pdf with the lyrics for all the hymns on the album is here. A little advance praise for To the Tune of a Welcoming God – Hymns for a Church Hungry for Welcome

“David Weiss has created a resource that yokes familiar hymns to his own original texts. Interpreted through Sara Kay’s clear and beautiful singing, these hymns offer a passionate voice of justice and inclusivity to Christian communities. The very recognizable tunes will make these pieces easy to introduce to congregations. In this collection we experience texts that broaden the circle of our vision and challenge us to a more complete vision of God’s reign. We will never cease to need such texts.” ~ Marty Haugen, Liturgical Composer & Musician

“This collection of new hymn lyrics is just the kind of grassroots creativity that other progressive Christians would do well to imitate. New images for a new era. The CD will be a helpful guide for congregations wanting to meet and sing these songs.” ~ Christopher Grundy, Singer/Songwriter, Assistant Professor of Preaching & Worship, Eden Theological Seminary

“David Weiss and Sara Kay’s intention is clear: to seed the church with grace. David’s ministry of celebrating people of all orientations comes through loud and clear in his texts. Consider this recording a demo for your congregation’s leaders as they lead open-hearted worship.” ~ Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, Musician & Liturgical Theologian, Author & Composer for The Psalm Project.

“It’s always fun to see what happens when a talented wordsmith breathes new life into old tunes with fresh language, images, and ideas. David Weiss is a gifted poet and a wonderfully inclusive theologian. ‘To the Tune of a Welcoming God’ will be a helpful resource for pastors and congregations who are looking for expansive language and theology to fit the melodies that have been part of the Church’s life for generations. Sara Kay does a nice job with her vocals of helping us to hear David’s words and to listen for the Word beyond the words. My favorite is track #6, ‘Now the Welcome’—very skillful use of inner rhyme and fine lyric-craft.” ~ Bryan Sirchio, Singer/Songwriter & Author of The 6 Marks of Progressive Christian Worship Music

“These beautiful hymns are a gift to progressive congregations who long for music that expresses their deepest values: the love of a welcoming and gracious God, the dream of a better world to be born, and the hunger for justice that draws us near to God and neighbor. By combining familiar, diverse, and treasured tunes of the church with lyrics that maintain theological integrity at every turn, David Weiss has given progressives a much-needed resource that will benefit the church for years to come.” ~ Phil Snider, pastor, activist, author of Toward a Hopeful Future: Why the Emergent Church is Good News for Mainline Congregations

“These fifteen hymn texts make clear the universal scope of David Weiss’ interests, his biblical knowledge as a theologian, his poetic imagination as a writer, and his passion for justice as a prophetic activist. Singing these hymns myself, following along with the CD recording, and listening to the haunting clarity of Sara Kay’s solo voice, I came to appreciate fully what David Weiss has created. Not thinking the faith, or speaking the faith, or writing books about faith, all of which have been my lot, but singing the faith—that is the surest way to be caught up in what it means to follow in the Way set before us by the life of Jesus.”  ~ Lee Snook, Professor Emeritus, Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary

Hymns that employ biblical imagery to strengthen our welcome to GLBT persons:

We Are Your Soil uses a newer tune, “Du Är Helig” (“You are holy”) by Per Harling that appears in the new Lutheran hymnal. It’s a fast moving tune. In the text I liken all of us — specifically naming “gay and straight” and “bi and trans” as the “good soil” in which God sows seeds still today.

Hearts on Fire uses the tune for “Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise” by Carl Schalk. This text begins with the Emmaus phrase about “hearts on fire,” but becomes a strident anthem about GLBT Pride today, from its secular expression in Stonewall to its ecclesial expression in the struggle for same-sex blessings and ordinations.

Behold, I gather uses a traditional Peruvian folk melody, El condor pasa (“Flight of the Condor”), made familiar in the US by the Simon and Garfunkel song, “If I Could.” This song makes “welcome” the biblical theme from creation to Exodus to prophets to Jesus to Pentecost … to us. The verses are in the voice of the people; the refrain is in God’s voice.

Preserve Uganda’s Future Hope uses the tune from a familiar and moving patriotic hymn (America, the Beautiful) to lament the plight of GLBT persons in Uganda–especially as their situation has been worsened by ugly rhetoric from American fundamentalist preachers who have taken their homophobic message to Uganda.

Hymns that lift up the biblical theme of welcome in powerful imagery without being GLBT-specific:

Word of Welcome uses the tune for “Joyful, Joyful we adore thee.” This almost universally recognizable tune was originally written by Beethoven for a poem, “Ode to Joy” by Friedrich Schiller. My text borrows imagery both from Schiller’s poem and from the Bible.

Now the Welcome uses the tune for “Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise” by Carl Schalk. My text tells the story of Jesus’ ministry of welcome, then the tale of Pentecost, Peter’s vision in Acts 10, and a concluding verse that invites us to make that welcome real now.

Shall we Hearken to the Kin-dom uses the tune “Hanson Place” by Robert Lowry, known to church goers for its connection to the hymn “Shall We Gather at the River.” My words hold up Jesus’ healing miracles as instances of welcome because they restore outcasts to community. As always there are words that make us participants in the work of welcome.

It Was Upon a Moonlit Night uses the tune from the famous Christmas Carol, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” Written for Maundy Thursday, this hymn text sets Jesus’ suffering and death within the context of his radical welcome, as the risk he took to bear witness to God.

Welcome in the Wooden uses the Appalachian folk tune adapted by John Jacob Niles for the Christmas Carol, “I wonder as I wander.” My texts remains in the Christmas Season, suggesting that the babe in the manger is the “welcome in the wooden.” A beautiful song for Christmas Eve.

Go Tell It – Epiphany uses the familiar Negro Spiritual tune (and refrain) to “go tell” epiphany themes: from the Magi’s visit, through Jesus’ baptism, to the miracle at Cana and into his public ministry; the hymn ends by calling forth these themes in our own lives.

O Christ Who Came uses the beautiful haunting tune called “Londonderry Air” (most well-known for the Irish Ballad, “Danny Boy,” but also for the hymn, “O Christ the Same”). This text is triune, in picturing Christ as present through the Hebrew prophets, in Jesus’ ministry, and in the activity of the Holy Spirit … from Pentecost to the present.

In the Shadow of Your Cross uses the tune from a beautiful Latin American hymn, Pescador de hombres (“You have come down to the lakeshore). In my text, suitable for Lent, I tell the story of Jesus’ life from from Mary’s Magnificat to Jesus’ ministry, concluding with the cross, as the story of one who lived and died for standing “with the least” — which is where we find him today.

Touching Jesus uses Tommy Dorsey’s famous tune, “Precious Lord.” Originally written for the Easter Season Sunday that features the gospel lesson about Doubting Thomas, this text honors the value of touch throughout the Gospel and invites us to touch Jesus still today as we touch others in healing and welcoming ways.

Hymns that have a place in the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany Season:

The Place Where Advent Starts uses a Marty Haugen tune (“Joyous Light”) to speak about Advent beginning in a place of darkness and hunger.

Hark! The Children Plead for Peace uses a tune by Felix Mendelssohn (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”). In my text the children of today plead for peace.

Welcome in the Wooden uses the Appalachian folk tune adapted by John Jacob Niles for the Christmas Carol, “I wonder as I wander.” My texts remains in the Christmas Season, suggested that the babe in the manger is the “welcome in the wooden.” A beautiful song for Christmas Eve.

Go Tell It – Epiphany uses the familiar Negro Spiritual tune (and refrain) to “go tell” epiphany themes: from the Magi’s visit, through Jesus’ baptism, to the miracle at Cana and into his public ministry; the hymn ends by calling forth these themes in our own lives.

Hymns that have a place in the Lent/Holy Week/Easter Season:

Now Let Us Follow Jesus uses borrows an already familiar Lenten tune (“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”), but pairs it with words that focus less on Jesus’ dying than on the vibrant life that he lived—and on the invitation that we follow after him in that living

In the Shadow of Your Cross uses the tune from a beautiful Latin American hymn, Pescador de hombres (“You have come down to the lakeshore). In my text, suitable for Lent, I tell the story of Jesus’ life from from Mary’s Magnificat to Jesus’ ministry, concluding with the cross, as the story of one who lived and died for standing “with the least” — which is where we find him today.

It Was Upon a Moonlit Night uses the tune from the famous Christmas Carol, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” Written for Maundy Thursday, this hymn text sets Jesus’ suffering and death within the context of his radical welcome, as the risk he took to bear witness to God.

Touching Jesus uses Tommy Dorsey’s famous tune, “Precious Lord.” Originally written for the Easter Season Sunday that features the gospel lesson about Doubting Thomas, this text honors the value of touch throughout the Gospel and invites us to touch Jesus still today as we touch others in healing and welcoming ways.

Hymns that are for an ordination:

Our God’s a River blends water images with the tune of the “anthem of the Reformation” (A Mighty Fortress) to celebrate the 2004 extraordinary ordination of Jay Wiesner.

We Thus Acclaim uses a beautiful Irish tune (Star of the County Down) to celebrate the 2010 ordination of Jason Chesnut in imagery drawn from his chosen texts for the day.

Hymns for Creation/Earth Day:

God’s Wisdom Calls to Us uses the tune from the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to fashion a “Battle Hymn for Creation” moves from biblical imagery to contemporary crises—in hopes of moving us to action.

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