Hymns That Stay With Us

Hymns That Stay With Us April 22, 2016


A while back, I was interviewed by Brad from a contemporary music website, Worship Links. I answered some questions on how I go about the process of worship planning, Having me on was a real departure for them, but I hope it added some perspective for their readers, and I was happy to have the opportunity.

Click here to read the interview.

One of the questions was phrased this way:

Desert Island Worship Mix: You’re trapped on a desert island, and for reasons too ridiculous to explain, you can only have one CD with five worship songs on it. What are they?

Of course, I immediately traded my CD for a hymnal.

As I’ve said before, we don’t do traditional worship [primarily] because we like it, because it creates this sensory experience for us, but because we need it. Because we need the grounding, the shaping, the boundary, the and the “rootedness” that it brings us, while looking for new and creative ways to express our Christian story. Because it reminds us of what has already been done in Christ, and what one day will be. Because some things shouldn’t be optional…

But one byproduct of historic Christian worship is that, through active participation and repetition, it helps our faith become a part of us. In that way, hymn singing has always been a didactic process. Most of us who grew up with hymns undoubtedly have some that are our favorites, usually those in which we have found meaning, instruction, solace, and encouragement. I learned these songs as a kid, and it’s nothing but a benefit to me to have these hymns in my heart and head as I go through the seasons of life.

One of the main problems with the current popular repertoire is that it’s not created to last. By its own definition, contemporary worship has little use for anything that isn’t current and that doesn’t produce a limbic response. It’s like striking a match. It’s fun for an instant, but then it disappears, and we’re left to try and recreate it. When we choose songs to sing, we ought to be doing so with an eye toward lighting a candle, a lasting flame that will stay with us.

Choosing five for me is nearly impossible. As I said in the interview, tomorrow, I might choose five completely different hymns. But resisting the temptation to edit, these are the hymns I ended up choosing.

5. Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty

What more could be said about the otherness of the Almighty? A creed in and of itself.

4. Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above

As the previous hymn states so well, our God is distinctively other. But also, “the Lord if never far away.” Transcendent, yet imminent. Unfathomable.

3. Ask Ye What Great Things I Know

Ask ye what great thing I know,

That delights and stirs me so?
What the high reward I win?
Whose the Name I glory in?
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

What is faith’s foundation strong?
What awakes my heart to song?
He Who bore my sinful load,
Purchased for me peace with God,
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

Who is He that makes me wise
To discern where duty lies?
Who is He that makes me true
Duty, when discerned to do,
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

Who defeats my fiercest foes?
Who consoles my saddest woes?
Who revives my fainting heart,
Healing all its hidden smart?
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

Who is life in life to me?
Who the death of death will be?
Who will place me on His right,
With the countless hosts of light?
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

This is that great thing I know;
This delights and stirs me so;
Faith in Him Who died to save,
Him Who triumphed over the grave:
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

2. There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood – A guilty pleasure of a hymn, if ever there was one. Also, an excuse to visit with some Sacred Harp friends.

1. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

I love the last stanza, “Finish, then, thy new creation / pure and spotless let us be / Let us see thy great salvation / perfectly restored in thee.” That’s what being kingdom people is all about.

Now it’s your turn. What are your top five? Feel free to link to videos as I did.

Flickr, Drew Coffman, creative commons 2.0

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