At Epiphany, for over a year now, since the COVID restrictions began, we have not been able to sing hymns of worship together. Nevertheless, The Hymnal 1982 is still there, waiting for us to revisit the words of so many great and familiar hymns. Today I turned to hymn 645, “The King of love my shepherd is” and read the six short verses. The words are a paraphrase of Psalm 23, written in the 1800s by Henry William Baker. Like the psalm itself, the opening lines are so familiar:
The King of love my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am his,and he is mine for ever.
The third verse has a beautiful image of the Lord as a shepherd who seeks out a lost sheep and gently brings it home:
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, but yet in love he sought me, and on his shoulder gently laid, and home, rejoicing, brought me.
The words, of course, are only one part of the hymn. The tune for Hymn 645 is St. Columbra, an ancient Irish melody. Irish melodies, of course, are quite lyrical and easy to sing. This one can be sung alone, or by a congregation, but these days I often visit YouTube, where I found several performances of the hymn. Here’s my favorite, sung by the Cardiff Festival Choir with organ: www.youtube.com/watch?v=d50KE9jMVWY.
So sit back and enjoy this wonderful hymn. If you can’t wait to sing again at Epiphany, you can sing along with the Cardiff Festival Choir. The hymn has this final line at the end of the sixth verse:
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise within thy house for ever.