If the summer sermon series were to look in depth at the origins and spirituality of some of our favorite hymns, one per Sunday for the 12 weeks before Labor Day, which hymn would you like me to preach about? You may send me your suggestions here, as I am working with Holly to begin to plan the series.
I got the idea when I received an unexpected book in the mail, Then Sings My Soul by Robert A. Morgan. A gift, I guess, but an anonymous one — I can’t tell who sent it to me?!?! (If you did, or you know who did, I’d love to be able to say thank you…)
But as I leafed through the book’s pages, I thought about how important, even dear many hymns are to our faith. One can worship without music or song, but they both do something to our hearts and souls that the spoken word often struggles to accomplish. I’ve often said — and wondered why? — what Scripture was to earlier generations’ worship life, hymnody is in our time. I suspect, in reality, that what I am noticing is that Scripture has become less important to people, and much less known, while hymnody is holding its own.
As I have thought more about this homiletic prospect, I remembered back a couple of months ago that a colleague, the Rev. Rev Moira Finley, a pastor of a two-point charge in Wisconsin, wrote about trying something like this. She explained that she chose one hymn to feature a week. She began with the history or origins of the focus hymn, and then she ended with something about its spirituality and how it related to that of the congregation or its people. In her experience, it was a novel, but very approachable, even lovely way for people to think about their faith, and it filled the summer.
So, with your help, we’re going to try it this summer. But I need your input by clicking on this link:
While you are considering which hymns to ask me to take up on Sunday, let me remind you that congregational singing has been part of the church’s worship traditions from the very beginning. It’s right there in the Bible. And Jewish worship has included song at least from the time of the Exodus. The music used in worship has taken many different forms with the various cultures and settings of the worshiping community. Theology can also affect how the music comes out!
Today there is another great division going on between the more traditionalists’ hymns and the more new-fangled praise songs. But you can also talk about organs or no instruments. Or only singing biblical texts or words that have been written specifically as poems or lyrics. For me, I guess, there’s no one musical way to honor and praise and worship God. (Remember when Griffin introduced us to that dissonant electronic sound one Good Friday!) It might depend as much on the intent of the person making music as much as music itself. But, I believe, the music itself matters too, because some sounds and styles are more conducive for certain communities and cultures, helping lead people to God. We’re going to think some more about all these things this summer. And sing a lot too. Please help me know choose to focus hymns. And come and participate — our worship might end up having a bit more of a relaxed down-home feeling this season (maybe it always does in the summer?)…
See you in church,