Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why I Love Hymns

Lately I just crave hymns. Old ones or new ones. Any hymns. I want to learn them and learn about them and teach them to my child, too.

Hymns are written poetically and often they have a story-like progression, each verse carrying us through a season of life, or a stage of faith.

When I turn on the Christian radio station, or worship at non-traditional churches, I don't hear many hymns. Mostly I hear praise songs. In these songs, you sing over and over things like, "God, you are so good. Your love is higher than the mountains and deeper than the ocean. God, your love overwhelms me. God, my life is yours."

These kind of lyrics can be really good for times of worshiping alone. When it's just me and the Holy Spirit and I just prayed about something personal and specific, sometimes just singing "All of you is more than enough for all of me" over and over is just perfect.

But in corporate worship, when we are all learning together the practice of expressing our faith and glorifying God, there's nothing like getting a little more clear by singing: "I have seen the face of Jesus – tell me not of aught beside; I have heard the voice of Jesus – all my soul is satisfied. In the radiance of the glory first I saw his blessed face, and forever shall that glory be my home, my dwelling place."

The lyrics with broad ideas satisfied me more when God seemed mysterious and vague. He was good, but he was so vague. Early in my faith life there was so much I didn't know about him. Now there is still a lot I don't know, but enough that I do know that is so worth proclaiming! I don't want to sing the line "how great is our God" in a million different ways. I want to sing about the deeper stuff, the reasons he is great and the reasons his love is so big.

I find these reasons expressed in great detail when I get to sing a hymn. Hymns are so meaningful. So eloquently and purposefully written.

My heart also learns so much from the words of hymns. I don't know many hymns yet, and I don't know much about hymnwriters, but I do know most hymnwriters were abnormal people in that their faith went through many trials. My heart is challenged by the expression of faith in the midst of trials, and the knowledge of why God is so faithful and wonderful at all times.

So, lyrics matter most to me. I would much rather sing a hymn with only a piano for accompaniment, than sing a song with a vague description of God accompanied by a big ol' worship team. Don't get me wrong, I am a music person and therefore musically picky. As a percussionist I don't like too many cymbals just for effect. I love a violin added, or a trumpet, and guitar solos and piano solos, and an unabashed singer with great harmonies...

BUT... lyrics still matter most.

The clearer the ideas can be expressed, the more explicit meaning the songs will have, and the more depth the worship experience will afford.

The problem with hymns is that many people associate them with organs. Organs and organists are becoming more rare everyday, and a lot of people (including myself) prefer other instruments to organs. I know there are people out there writing hymns today, but there are also people who are putting old hymns to new music... with new instruments.

And with that, here is one of my all-time faves. I hope it blesses you today!

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken
originally composed by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my All shalt be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I've sought or hoped or known;
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
And while Thou shalt smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends may shun me;
Show Thy face, and all is bright.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure!
Come, disaster, scorn, and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure;
With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee Abba, Father!
I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather,
All must work for good to me.

Man may trouble and distress me,
'Twill but drive me to Thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me,
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, 'tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, 'twere not in joy to charm me
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Take, my soul, thy full salvation;
Rise o'er sin and fear and care;
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
What a Father's smile is thine,
What a Savior died to win thee;
Child of heaven, shouldst thou repine?

Haste, then, on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith and winged by prayer;
Heaven's eternal day's before thee,
God's own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close the earthly mission,
Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope soon change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

No comments: