Monday, September 21, 2020

Hymns and Transcendence

 I’m thankful we get to worship in person at our church again. The months we couldn’t were hard, I’ve already written about that elsewhere. Our pastor preached yesterday morning from Ephesians and he talked about what a privilege we have to meet corporately for worship and how incredibly special that is.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I shared in my last post a good bit about how much I appreciate being able to meet together with my church family and how much richer, deeper, and more intense our worship is when we multiply it together.


What I wanted to focus on in this post though, is the sermon our pastor preached last night. Yes, we get to have Sunday evening services again! I have missed those so much! Last night our pastor preached on Why We Sing Hymns, and I’ll link the message here:



I deeply appreciated what he said about the transcendence of what we do when we gather together to worship and how important it is that we sing songs that are true, songs that are thoughtful, songs that are teaching and increasing our understanding of theology, and sing different songs.  What we do in the church transcends culture and transcends preferences and leads us to the throne of God. Music helps us in this when it is true.  As Pastor Jesse said, “God is only truly worshiped when we sing true things about Him.” This resonated with me – I have been bothered for years by worship music that contains error, and I’m thankful for careful worship leaders who choose the songs we sing thoughtfully and purposefully. 


As I listened to the sermon, I was thinking about how  amazed and humbled I am when I look back over my life at how God has constantly spared me and rescued me from error and shallow thinking that permeates much of the evangelical subculture. He has kept me through the years when confronted with things that just didn’t sound right, even when I didn’t have the maturity yet to quite know why. He instilled in me a love for His word, and from early days, a love for hymns.  


When I was young my family had a Baptist Hymnal on the piano, and that was a well-worn “go-to” for me when I was depressed, sad, lonely, bored, etc.  I would pull out the hymnal and play though them and my mood would lift as my heart was drawn to the truths I was singing. I spent much time leafing through that hymnal, and even now many of those songs are a source of deep comfort for me.  


What I realized last night is that God graciously used those hours spent singing through the hymnal to drill truth deep into my heart, when I didn’t even realize it.   He used that heart level truth to preserve me when things that weren’t quite right were preached or told me by Christian friends or when I stumbled across them in the evangelical subculture. The reason things seemed off was because they didn’t mesh with the truths I’d hidden in my heart through the doctrines I’d spent my lifetime singing.  It gave me a longing for more than shallow sentimentality in my Christian thought life, and taught me a deep longing for the transcendent.  These songs are rich because they bond believers together with shared experience and language.  We resonate with them because they are true, and true for all believers together. I’m grateful for that heritage.  


This allows me to love the old hymns and to also love newer hymns that are still being written today – those that sing the transcendent truths of the gospel and God’s word, the doctrines that join together all believers and transcends cultures and languages.  We long for rich, deep theology in our songs, not shallow sentimentality. We need songs and hymns that teach us to look outward from ourselves and look up to our Savior. We need the deeper truths driven into our hearts that satisfy us and join us together in ways that a steady diet of only shallow repeated choruses just cannot do. 

Happy Monday, still thinking on the joys of Sunday today.