It is always a relief to me to turn to a new section of the hymnal; I think it’s because of the frankly unnatural nature of this practice. i was getting worn out by the Insight and Wisdom section, feeling as though I had little of either by the time it all ended.

But now we are in a section called Hope.

Which seems a bit out of step (which means it’s perfect for this practice). It’s a hard day to have hope, when the Western Hemisphere is bearing the wrath of Mother Nature, and there are so many hard things to bear from the current administration.

But hope it is, and so hope it shall have to be.

And as hope hymns go, this one’s pretty decent. Lyrics by Alicia Alexander, and set to Was Gott Thut (the same tune as When Mary Through the Garden Went (Was Gott Thut), we have a good reminder of where to find hope and why it matters:

A promise through the ages rings,
that always, always, something sings.
Not just in May, in finch-filled bower,
but in December’s coldest hour,
a note of hope sustains us all.

A life is made of many things:
bright stars, bleak years, and broken rings.
Can it be true that through all things,
there always, always something sings?
The universal song of life.

Entombed within our deep despair,
our pain seems more than we can bear;
but days shall pass, and nature knows
that deep between the winter snow
a rose lies curled and hums its song.

For something always, always sings.
This is the message Easter brings:
from deep despair and perished things
a green shoot always, always springs,
and something always, always sings.

Almost like it’s a good wrap up for an Easter service.

I say “almost” because as Michael Tino and I talked about in a Hymn by Hymn Extra, Easter is not Spring – and this hymn makes a direct connection.

Yet putting Easter in a larger context, and drawing us into the entombment metaphor here, does offer some comfort, at least to me. I would still use this as a closing song at Easters when hope is he central theme.

Truth is, despite the Easter/Spring thing (which probably guys Michael more than it does me), I rather like this one.

I wonder how many denominations have Duke Ellington in their hymnals?

A hat tip to our hymnal commission for finding a place for this piece. And, as I’ve talked about before, this fits in the ‘not every song in the hymnal is meant for the congregation to sing’ category – although I would love to be present in a congregation that knows how to sing jazz together.

Now I will admit, I only kinda knew this one before I got to it, which is a surprise, as my parents were huge fans of jazz from the big band era and the Harlem renaissance, and I am fairly sure this song was on one of the Ellington albums they owned. But maybe not – as I learned from reviewer Ken Dryden at All Music,

“Come Sunday” was the spiritual movement of Duke Ellington’s extended work “Black, Brown & Beige,” but after the longer piece was lambasted by critics attending its premiere at the 1943 Carnegie Hall concert, Ellington performed the complete work just once more before reworking it into a smaller suite.

So it’s possible this song only later found its way into collections. But either way, it’s not that familiar to me.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate it now…wow, do I. I even appreciate its connection to Easter. I wondered, when I read that, why this wasn’t in the Easter section, but then I thought that would limit this amazing piece. But look at these words:

Oo Oo Come Sunday, oh, come Sunday, that’s the day.

(Refrain)
Lord, dear Lord above,
God Almighty, God of love,
please look down and see my people through.

I believe that God put sun and moon up in the sky.
I don’t mind the gray skies, ‘cause they’re just clouds passing by.

(Refrain)

Heaven is a goodness time, a brighter light on high.
(Spoken) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,
(Sung) and have a brighter by and by.

(Refrain)
I believe God is now, was then, and always will be.
With God’s blessing we can make it through eternity.

If that’s not a prayer for resurrection, I don’t know what is.

Now I can’t let this one go by without sharing a few versions. The first is from a church choir in Nebraska, whose version isn’t the most inspiring but helped me learn the song so I could sing it this morning.

This one is the incomparable Mahalia Jackson, singing with Sir Duke himself:

There are, of course, as many covers as there are jazz musicians. But I wanted to close with this little gem by Abbey Lincoln, complete with pops and scratches from the well-worn LP, that moved me to tears: