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Honey from the Rock
Hymns by Richard Leach

Hymn text collection

Author Richard Leach
Released July 2005
Catalog no. 125-426 (Soft-cover, spiral binding, 54 pp.)
Price $15 (U.S.)

Read the introduction by Richard Leach.

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Honey from the Rock is a collection of 32 hymns for Lent, Easter and the life of the church, including communion hymns, a wedding hymn and an evening hymn. The texts move from Jesus in the wilderness to Jesus before Pilate, to the discovery of Jesus' empty tomb, the affirmation "Yes, Jesus Lives" (set by David Ashley White), and the meeting between John and the exalted Lord described in Revelation 1 ("Christ of the Keys," setting by Amanda Husberg). "Come, Join the Dance of Trinity" is a new carol for Trinity Sunday which appears in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) with the tune KINGSFOLD; here, it is set to LEANDER, from The Southern Harmony. "How Long Ago the World Was Taught," which won the Macalester-Plymouth hymn-writing contest in 1999, is included in this collection, as is a stunning poetic meditation comparing the words "Jesus lives, and he is Lord" to the coal brought to Isaiah's lips in Isaiah 6:7 ("Six-Winged Seraphim," setting by Dan Locklair). Fifteen contemporary composers provided tunes and settings for this collection. It also includes eight traditional tunes.

Introduction by Richard Leach
"Honey from the rock" is a phrase from the end of Psalm 81. "O that my people would listen to my voice," says God, "I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you." (Psalm 81:13,16)

The wild bees of biblical Israel often nested among rocks, so "honey from the rock" is a way of saying wild honey. It's also a wonderful image of what our God does for us. In the midst of the common stone of daily life, we are fed by the sweetness of scripture, of holy communion, of the Christian community, of God’s promises. This book begins with hymns for Lent and Easter--the world at its stoniest, God's action at its sweetest.

This collection is a companion to We Sing the Shoreline, which includes Advent, Christmas and Epiphany season hymns. Here, as in the introduction to that volume, I offer thanks to all the composers whose music is in this book, and to all the others who have set my hymn texts. In particular: Carson Cooman, with his music-writing energy (sometimes returning a setting via e-mail within an hour of receiving a text); Amanda Husberg, who blends gospel music and Lutheranism, Minnesota and Brooklyn, and whose careful reading has improved many of my texts; and David Ashley White, musician’s musician--literally, because he is a Professor of Composition and Director of the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston--and in every complimentary sense as well.

Thanks to churches whose hymn-writing contests or commissions led to the creation of several of these hymns. "How Long Ago the World Was Taught" won the 1998-1999 contest for a hymn on the role of the church in addressing social concerns in a new century, sponsored by Macalester-Plymouth United Church in St. Paul. "Come, Join the Dance of Trinity" won the Trinity Episcopal Church (New Haven, Conn.) competition for a hymn celebrating its 250th anniversary in 2002. "The Mother, the Father, the Stable," was commissioned by Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Austin, Texas, for its book Shepherd Songs, published by Selah in 2002. And composer Roy Hopp’s request for new Maundy Thursday hymns led to "Circle of Thorn," the suite on Mark's Passion.

Honey from the Rock has been planned for some years now--various other projects came first, for me and for Selah Publishing. All along I continued to write, and to refine the selection of texts and tunes to be included, to the point where I joked that if the book were never published, it could become perfect! My thanks to David Schaap and Selah that that paradox has not come to pass. Refined and imperfect, here is Honey from the Rock.

Richard Leach
Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, April 22, 2005



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