So I'm sitting here drinking a little coffee from my extra large mug I got in England and am thinking through my week. There's a string of thoughts that all tie together and so please indulge my stream of consciousness writing this morning.
We had a great time of worship yesterday as the gathered church. One of the highlights for me was when the saints belted out On Christ the Solid Rock, a dearly loved hymn. They sang it like a mass choir, honking it off like geese trying to beat the first freeze. I stood and listened most of the time. And I thought about the people who were singing it who had nothing but Christ to stand on: the beautiful lady riddled with cancer, the grandparents who left their grandson in jail, the guy whose wife just won't come to church, and the gal who just can't seem to make a good relational choice.
We sang, "When darkness tries to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace." It started building as I was thinking about those people. "In every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil." Even a deeper sense of what those folks were experiencing while singing those lyrics. "His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood." Can't contain it - I'm getting choked up. "When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay." I let out a big, "Wooooooooo." Not exactly psalmic in its sound, I know. But loud enough that my wife gave me the look - the one that says, "You okay over there?"
And I read something the other day on an interview with a group of pastors about worship. They asked the panel what makes a good worship song, what a pastor is looking for in a worship song, etc. Good hooks. Strong melody. Singability. Those were all things that came up. One guy shut up the rest: "I want songs that prepare my people to die."
It's why we all ran back to the hymns when 9/11 happened. We didn't have current worship confessions that could help us reckon with "high and stormy gales" and "darkness hiding [God's] face."
A pastor friend of mine, with whom I had lunch last week, used to drive with a hymnal open on his steering wheel. I'm not sure it was the safest thing to do, but his soul was enriched (and he was never in a wreck). Maybe we'd have better followers of Christ if Fanny Crosby was our date rather than the latest offering from someone who didn't write their own lyrics but is cool enough and can be autotuned.
Our worship pastor is putting together a project tentatively called 10 to Remember, birthed out of his desire for his own kids not to forget the strong hymns of days gone by. As soon as its out, I'll be the first to do the PR for it.
Last thought. As I've done more thinking about this even as I'm writing, I've come to realize it has very little to do with hymns in and of themselves. It has to do with a sense of fervency and weightiness. There are great modern worship confessions that help me express my heart to God with fervency and a sense of the weightiness of the promise when I draw near to God that He will draw near to me. But they are fewer and fewer it seems, especially when worship has become a genre of music rather than a response of the heart.
But that's just me thinking thoughts...