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Passing On the Hymns

PastorWestSSVisitYou may have noticed that hymns are not very popular in many of our churches. To preserve these musical statements of faith, we need to pass them on. That is what I am trying to do with, as well as in my own local church.

That is why I started a new practice in my children’s choir this year. I am asking our pastors and elders to share their favorite hymn. Last Sunday, one of our pastors shared his favorite hymn, “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands,” an Easter hymn written by Martin Luther.

Our pastor explained the definitions of certain words from the hymn that would be difficult for children to understand and told them why this was his favorite hymn. He told the children about his daily devotional routine–every morning after he gets his cup of coffee, he begins by singing one hymn from the Trinity Hymnal. What a wonderful example for all of us to follow – daily hymn singing, prayer and Bible reading!

If we are to see I hope that, if your church is not familiar with this Easter hymn, that you might consider learning and singing it this year.

"I Stand Amazed"

Talk about strolling down memory lane! We came across this song on YouTube. Not only is it a powerful presentation of the “I Stand Amazed” hymn (especially David Phelps’s solo), but it also reminds us of wonderful days of “revival meetings.” We grew up in a time when it was common for churches to have special meetings once a year or so during the middle of the week. They promoted it as “revival week” – a time to hear more sermons and sing more hymns then just on Sunday, with the aim to stir up the church, revive our souls to greater service in Christ’s Kingdom and win the lost. And yes, we even on occasion had such meetings in a tent. Those were some good memories.

Just A Little Talk With Jesus

Josiah is eleven-years old. He has been Kim Snow's piano student for one year. He plays the piano at his church and volunteers to play at other events. So far, he is just playing offertories, but I am preparing him to accompany the singing of hymns at his church. Last week I asked him what is his favorite hymn. He said it is "Just A Little Talk With Jesus." Here is a video of him serving others at a local hospital by playing "Since Jesus Came Into My Heart" and his favorite hymn.

The Unexpected Christmas Gift

PianoGift webIt all happened so quickly. I was shopping at Winco when the phone rang.

“Kim,” said Jean, my piano student. “Do you know anyone who needs a piano? We just came from helping our pastor move to a smaller house and we have a beautiful piano on the back of our truck. We want to deliver it to someone who needs it.”

I was taken aback as Jean did not know about my new student’s prayers.

A few months ago, one of my piano students was able to buy a nearly new Young Chang upright piano they found on Craigslist. The seller originally was asking $400, but when they found out that my family was Christians he sold it to them for only $100. Another family was given a piano they found on Craigslist after they wrote an essay (a requirement by the seller) explaining why they needed a piano— one reason they cited was that their young children were currently playing the piano at their church during the worship service, and they were learning to be church musicians.

I had told these stories to a family new to my piano studio. I encouraged them to start praying that the Lord would provide them a piano and to start looking on Craigslist. They soon found a free piano, but by the time they had contacted the seller the piano was gone.

“Let me make a call,” I said. I hung up the phone and called this new family. At first my heart dropped—they did not answer the phone. I was afraid that once again they would miss out on a free piano. But a few minutes later they returned the call. As you can imagine, my new piano family’s mom was speechless. ‘Yes, we’ll take it,’ she managed to say. The husband came home early from work, and, with the help of a neighbor, they unloaded the piano into a new home.

What a blessing to see my little piano student, who I earnestly believe will someday use her gifts and skills in music to bless the church of Christ, enjoying a remarkable, unexpected Christmas gift. 

“O God Beyond All Praising”

For hundreds of years, hymn writers have set their lyrics to classical, folk, pop and rock tunes. One recent example is Michael Perry’s hymn, “O God Beyond All Praising.”

ThePlanets WebAccording to the United Methodist Church website, this hymn was “written specifically for the melody THAXTED in 1982, a composition by the early 20th-century British composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) [which is part of the “Jupiter” section of his orchestral suite, “The Planets.”] This tune is normally associated in the United Kingdom with a more patriotic text. Perry composed the text, he said, ‘in response to a call for alternative words that would be more appropriate for Christian worship.’”

The lyrics of “O God Beyond all Praising” celebrate “blessings without number and mercies without end” as “We lift our hearts before you and wait upon your Word.” By setting his lyrics to this triumphant, solemn tune he effectively claimed it for the church—not only that we might sing it for ages to come, but I believe (like many great hymns of the church) for throughout eternity.

Ironically, the composer was far removed from the church and was never a person who “honor(s) and adore(s) ... our great and mighty Lord.” Rather, Gustav Holst was a man who was influenced by Hindu spiritualism. He composed “The Planets,” not as an orchestral work inspired by the Bible (Psalms 19) to celebrate the God of creation, but each part of the suite was written to transmit the ideas, feelings and influence of the astrological signs.

Christ’s common grace extended to Gustav Holst (and all mankind!) means that we are able to hear and enjoy such works as THAXTED. But praise be to our Loving Lord for his special grace that redeemed Michael Perry, who in turn wrote lyrics that help us to “sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay.”

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