Hymns Connecting Generations

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord - Ephesians 5:19 NKJV

It is almost Thanksgiving, which in my calendar means slowly switching from the hymns to Christmas Carols. But before bidding adieu to In the Garden, How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace, I wanted to take a moment to write about the connecting power of hymns. First of all, I did not grow up listening to hymns. To be sure the choir sang something at the Congregational church where I attended with my family, however I had no idea what they were singing. The ancient stone building echoed so that I assumed they might have been singing in Latin. The first time I heard a hymn I could understand was when I was nineteen years old. As a child of the 60’s I grew up listening to the Beatles, Stones, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchel. So, when I gave my life to Christ at a Pentecostal church, I was amazed to hear their camp meeting hymns along with the early praise choruses that eventually led to the contemporary Christian music of today. The most delightful thing of all was that everybody sang. Old folks and young folks all looked like they were having a great time. The music helped to connect generations and some of the rowdiest of the bunch were often the old timers! A hearty HAAAALEEEELUUUUJAH! would sometimes suddenly arise from the sweetest old lady or grey-haired saint, right in the middle of a verse, causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand up!

I remember we had two song books in those days. There was a large, hard covered hymnal as well as a small soft covered chorus book. When the worship leader would call out, “Please turn to number 439”, I always marveled at the number of songs between those covers. Today, I realize that just counting Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby, there are thousands to choose from, and when you sprinkle in America the Beautiful, Christmas carols, Easter hymns and Amazing Grace, it makes you realize that what we hold in our hands is only the tip of the iceberg of what has been left to us through 2,000 years of church history. And these songs connect us, not only to the generations who sit in the seat next to us, but also to everyone who has ever put their faith in Christ. We are reminded that Martin Luther, John Newton, Saint Patrick and Isaac Watts are still living and singing with us in the unseen choir loft of Heaven. More importantly these precious words and melodies of our “Rock of Ages cleft for me”, who is “Perfect in power in love and purity.” also connect us to Jesus Christ. They remind us that “We have decided to follow Jesus” and that we must “Surrender all to Thee my precious Savior!” and will joyfully “Crown Him with many crowns!” They tell us about “What a day that will be, when our Jesus we will see!” and that forever “He will walk with me and talk with me and tell me that I am His own!”

God’s Dinner Music

I will sing of your love and justice; to you O Lord I will sing praise! Psalm 101:1 NIV

My saying with our family, is “Media and meals don’t mix.” That is with the exception of music. One of my most detailed childhood memories is of my step-dad playing, Beethoven’s Ninth symphony or Benny Goodman on the stereo at suppertime. After 60 years, I can still feel Bababa-boom through my feet and hear the high notes on Goodman’s clarinet.

God invented music long before heaven and earth were created. I believe that the first thing He taught the angels was how to sing Holy-Holy-Holy! Jesus Himself sang after the Last supper and in today’s verse David tells us that the song He sings is of God’s love and justice.

Music is special. Maybe that’s why so many generations, from ancient Hebrew festivals to 18th century English pubs have resonated with songs while they ate and drank. Music has the power to bring our minds and bodies into unity around its melodies and rhythms. We need to ask ourselves “What kind of music are we listening to at our dinner times?” Are we choosing the sounds of football, the boink-boink-boink of video games or the tapping out a reply to some text message, or are we listening to the symphony of heaven? When we do, our hearts our minds can be filled with God’s dinner music and our lips with His praise!

A Morning Prayer

In our Bible reading together we have recently been going through the life of the prophet Samuel and how he was instructed to anoint Saul as king over Israel. We encounter Saul as a nice young man full of hope and potential. How sad it is that once given high position and the blessings of God that he soon failed, broke Samuel’s heart and missed the path that God wanted him to walk.

Saul’s failure was that, while he was respectful and well liked, he never had a personal connection with God. He was always just trying his best to serve Samuel’s God. How different the heart of David, who longed to know and serve God long before he was called to be king. Watching over his father’s sheep while he was still a teenager, David prayed to really know God and learn the path God wanted him to walk. Sure David had plenty of his own failures but he never stopped longing to know and please God. These verses from Psalm 25 are often central to my own morning prayers. A few years back I wrote this song based on those verses and I pray the words and music may awaken your own hearts to really seek God and His ways today. Only He knows the path on which each of us are called to walk today!