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Look at it this way.

as encouraged by Timothy Shepard

Hymns Alive

"Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings", says a hymn by Charles Wesley. And it's true, it has happened to me many times. Once when I was at Church conference center Chapel that was overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the congregation was singing about the spacious firmament and could actually look up to see the glorious spacious firmament just as the hymnwriter described it. At a recent workshop Opening Devotion a light surprised me when we all sang, "Ponder anew what the Almighty can do!". Those words took on a meaning that directly connected to the moment. Sometimes a hymn can be very comforting, like the words "Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home" say on September 12, 2001 or in other times of trauma? Charles Wesley certainly knew the power of the hymn; why else in his evangelistic zeal would he write over 600 of them.

A hymn is a poem; filled with colons, semi-colons, and comas. More often than not lines rhyme so to be easy to remember. A hymn in its strictest form has the same number of syllables in each stanza. (They are correctly called stanzas, not verses.) Hymns are jam packed with such profound theological concepts that it takes a house full of Bishops to choose the hymns in our hymnbook. Yet they are conceived with such innocent devotion that those same theological concepts are presented with a simple, un-intimidating subtlety.

A hymn is sung to a tune, which also has a name of its own. The purpose of the tune is 1. to illuminate the words, and 2. to provide a format for a congregation to express the words together. Tunes are a whole other interesting story, though. Did you know that one of the most penitential tunes in our book was originally sung in German pubs during the Renaissance before Martin Luther borrowed for his own purposes?

Unfortunately, many folks (myself included) in our distractions often miss the beauty in the words of the Sunday morning hymns. But if you will notice, the hymns sung on Sunday morning are chosen because they relate to the scripture readings and the preaching, etc. And when you do notice that connection "a light might surprise you while you sing".

If you do not know a hymn, introduce yourself to it by reading the words, listening carefully to the shape of the tune, and jump in and give it your best shot as soon as possible. The next time that same hymn comes around, you'll be a little bit familiar with it. Eventually it will be like an old friend.

The Hymn book in your church is an amazing book. Take the time some day to peruse through it strictly for the poetry. Check the indices in the back of the book if you're looking for a particular author or if you want to find a particular hymn; or check the table of contents in the front if you know a particular category you are looking for. You will be amazed at what you can find in your Hymnal! Hymnals are actually wonderful devotional supplements. I believe every home should have one for family singing or private devotions.

I'd like to end with the following hymn by an unknown author that really says it all. (Apologies for the antiquated non-inclusive language, but it does mean everyone!)

There's something about a fine old hymn
That can stir the heart of a man:
That can reach to the goal of his inmost soul
Such as no mere preaching can.

So we thank Thee, Lord, for the fine old hymns;
May we use them again and again
As we seek to save from a hopeless grave
The souls of our fellow men!



"Ponder anew what the Almighty can do... "