In 2021 this Sunday occurs during Creation Time and suggestions for songs which can be used to complement or substitute for the lectionary based material can be found here. You can find a YouTube playlist here with many of the songs suggested below.
The final line of the Epistle offers a wonderful invitation to worship - “Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you” - which we can pick up by singing about our openness to God as we gather. Father, we praise you, now the night is over (CH 209) or Jesu tawa pano / Jesus we are here (CH 773) speak about our coming before God while Lord of all being, throned afar (CH 125 / MP 439), Here for you (CCLI) and I could sing of Your love forever (CCLI) all speak of having open hearts.
The Gospel also has a call to welcome children, and through that to welcome Jesus. Here in this place / Gather us in (CH 623), Let us build a house (CH 198) and Jesus calls us here to meet him (CH 510) all speak of the need to welcome everyone. Come now is the time to worship (CH 196 / MP 1040) has the invitation to “come just as you are”, while Come one, come all (Gordon) is a call to all of creation so would be appropriate during Creation Time.
How blest are those who do not stray (CH 1) is a good metrical paraphrase of the psalm while Happy is the one (WGRG) would be an alternative option. There are also two interesting songs from other parts of the world. Happy are they who walk in God’s wise way (PFAS 1C / STB 87) from Thailand is set to a beautiful pentatonic melody and can be accompanied by finger cymbals and drum for an authentic sound. May this church be like a tree / Que esta iglesia sea un árbol (GIA) by the Argentinian composer Pablo Sosa isn’t a paraphrase but relates to v3 and asks that the church may be like a tree growing by the living water which flows from God. It would be best suited to a soloist singing the verses and the congregation joining in with the chorus, potentially even in Spanish!
There are surprisingly few songs which link explicitly to the famous line in today’s Gospel about “the first must be last” but Let no ambition rule our hearts (GIA) could be a good option as it can be sung to Tallis’ Canon while Brother, sister, let me serve you (CH 694 / MP 1261), the simple two part Taizé chant Ubi caritas (CH 801) or I’ll a servant be (CCLI) all pick up being a “servant of all”. To link to the last verses about welcoming children you could use Jesus loves me! this I know (CH 564), Lord of all hopefulness Lord of all joy (CH 166 / MP 882) or These treasured children present now (GIA).
O Lord, may all we do and say (Carolyn) would be a great hymn to link to the Epistle as it explores the whole book of James. It’s set to Tallis’ Canon and v4 is particularly relevant for today. You could also use songs about wisdom, such as Holy wisdom, lamp of learning (CH 604), The perfect wisdom of our God (MP 1353 / CCLI / Getty) and Who can measure heaven and earth? (Jubilate). How happy are all they who hear (CH 686) would particularly link in the final verse to the theme of conflict.
Songs about the place of women in the world, in the church, and in the Bible, would link well to the Old Testament. Of women, and of women's hopes we sing (Hope), sung to Sursum Corda, asserts the place of women as equals in all of this, potentially overcoming some potential dangers in how this passage is interpreted, Mothers of faith (Gordon) celebrates the women who have been formative in our lives, while God of the women (link) is sung to Slane and recognises the various ministries that God calls women to. O God of truth and glory (Carolyn) sung to Aurelia and There is a line of women (WGRG) sung to the Seven joys of Mary both look at the important roles played by women in the Bible. You could also use Mothering God, you gave me birth (CH 117) which explores feminine imagery for God and is based on a text by Julian of Norwich.
There isn’t a strong sending theme in any of the passages today but they all share a focus on living our lives in a way that is faithful to God’s teaching. Who would true valour see (CH 535 / MP 224) and Courage, brother! do not stumble (CH 513) are both about sticking to this whatever challenges are thrown at you while Your hand, O God, has guided (CH 511 / MP 705), Hear the call of the kingdom (MP 1282 / CCLI / Getty) and Build my life (CCLI) are more general songs about committing to follow God’s way. There are also some great African songs about walking with God such as Sizohamba naye / We will walk with God (CH 803), Ewe thina / We walk his way (WGRG) or Siyahamba / We are marching (CH 516 / MP 954).