Saturday, August 12, 2017

Can you teach an old song new tricks?



            In 1971, the year I graduated from high school, Karen Lafferty wrote the song “Seek Ye First,” based on Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: Matthew 7:7
Early Karen
             Ms. Lafferty probably used the King James Version, because there wasn’t much else to use in 1971, and her lyrics closely match KJV:

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu Alleluia

Man shall not live by bread alone
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu Alleluia

Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you
Allelu Alleluia
(http://www.metrolyrics.com/seek-ye-first-lyrics-karen-lafferty.html)

            Oops. My songbook doesn’t include the second verse. If memory serves, that verse is based on Jesus’ answer to Satan in the wilderness. And biblegateway.com confirms I have a few shreds of memory left; it’s from Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4.
             In 1990, Ms. Lafferty told interviewer Harry Boonstra the circumstances behind her song:
Let's back up for a minute. What was the origin of "Seek Ye First"?
It was back in 1971. I had quit my entertainment job and was trying to support myself with teaching guitar lessons. I had three students! When my savings were all gone and I had no money to make my car payments, I became very discouraged and confused.
One evening I went to a Bible study at church, and we talked about Matthew 6:33.1 was tremendously encouraged and challenged by the words about Christ's kingdom. So I went home, wrote the tune, recorded it on a tape recorder, and then sang this little descant part.
I taught the song at church the next week, and it caught on right away. The Lord really paved the way for me with that song. "Seek Ye First" has opened doors for me all over the world. And because it's in so many hymnbooks, about 40 percent of my mission support comes from that song! (https://www.reformedworship.org/article/march-1990/seek-ye-first-interview-karen-lafferty)
If you can't get to Robert M. Sides in
Williamsport, PA, you can buy this on
Amazon.com or (believe it or not!)
Wal-Mart.com.
            Though I have frequently sung “Seek Ye First” over the decades, I never noticed until today who wrote it. And I only noticed today because I was paging through The Easy Worship Fake Book, playing my ukulele and singing until my throat was taken over by a croaking frog begging me to stop. 
          I bought the songbook last week at Robert M. Sides when I also bought Star Wars:  A Musical Journey, Episodes I-VI for easy piano. You may think my musical expertise is limited to EASY PIANO, SIMPLIFIED CHORDS, and OVER 100 SONGS IN THE KEY OF “C.” Please remember this spring I sang the Alto I part in Latin lyrics as the oldest nun in the Sound of Music.
            Anyway, as I played and sang, I thought, “This song needs another verse.” (This is before I realized it has another verse.) Well now it has yet one more verse. This is what I came up with:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
With all your soul and your strength.
And love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Allelu Alleluia.

            My verse comes from Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:36-40. I used NIV 1984, because that was the Bible close at hand in my bedroom, but here it is from the more recent NIV, from biblegateway.com. And, as the footnotes indicate, Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy and Leviticus.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Footnotes:
  1. Matthew 22:37 Deut. 6:5
  2. Matthew 22:39 Lev. 19:18
            Get out your ukulele or slide onto your piano bench and give it a try. I think it works.
            If you want to know more about Karen Lafferty and her role in Musicians for Missions, read the 2009 article found here: 




Karen c. 2009