As someone who has attended a contemporary church for many years now, I recently came across an old hymnal, Songs of the Church, that must have been stolen (Did I say stolen? I mean borrowed) from one of the churches of my childhood.
I remember being particularly fascinated by this hymnal as a child because it had its own Ten Commandments on the front pages:
Thou shalt not bend my backs together…
Thou shalt not use me as a fan…
Thou shalt not mark on me…
Thou shalt no use me to hit the babies. (Good one!..How about we not use it to hit anyone?)
It’s true that I do like contemporary music, but there’s something fascinating about old hymns. The words of these songs take me back to a time when I was fiddling with my mother’s jewelry and chasing stray Cheerios as they rolled under the pew. There’s several original tunes, such as:
Asleep in Jesus
This sounds kind of like a church I used to attend.
Awake and Sing the Song
A good one for the invitation.
or, Lord, Dismiss Us.
Which has been everyone’s prayer at some point or another, if we’re absolutely honest.
There’s the incomprehensible:
In Vain in High and Holy Lays
Night With Ebon Pinion
I looked up pinion and apparently it means gear, like in a clock. And Ebon means black. Why we’re singing about black clock gears, I have no idea, unless we’re keeping time for Jesus and no one knows the day or hour.
Come Ye Disconsolate
I’m not quite sure what disconsolate means either, but it sounds uncomfortable, kind of like a word you might hear in a Phillip’s Milk of Magnesia commercial.
There’s More Holiness Give Me (the prayer of Yoda, I guess) and When I Can Read My Title Clear. I like the part about “smiling at Satan’s rage” and “wiping my weeping eyes.”
And can we really judge when we sing modern songs that consist of dry bones dancing, the words sloppy wet kiss or “I am a friend of God” over and over?
Gracious Pilot, Straitly Guide Me, and
I Must Needs Go Home.
Proper grammar not included.
But still, just as Julie Powell decided to cook her way through the Joy of Cooking cookbook, I have often wanted to sing my way through all 700 songs.
There’s the simple, such as:
I am Thinking Today
I Must Tell Jesus
Yes, I Believe God is Real
There’s a Book, and
Ready to Suffer.
Then there’s everyone’s favorites:
Did you Repent, Fully Repent?
Always a good question to ask.
Ere You Left Your Room This Morning (Did You Think To Pray?)
And how about Must I Go, and Empty-Handed? or Don’t Scatter the Sheep?
Will there be a Battle of the Bands in Heaven, where the hymns of King James take on the hipster remixes of “God of This City” or “Your Grace Is Enough?”
While I don’t think we’ll be singing some of these old hymns anytime soon, in a world where much of modern praise music sounds like a hijacked Justin Bieber song, I have to admit, there’s something moving about their urgency (Prince of Peace! Control My Will!) and the sincerity of the lyrics:
How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts?
You Never Mentioned Him to Me
To Love Someone More Dearly (My Task)
Lord, I Care Not for Riches (Don’t sing this one unless you really mean it.)
and, I Want to Be a Worker (This one too.)
So may this blog see us all Safely Through Another Week.
Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it – mount of God’s redeeming love.
When it comes to God’s praise, I sort of confess…there are days when I’d Rather be an Old Time Christian.