Meat, Milk and Lollipops

I had a wonderful experience last Sunday morning. We sing three hymns or gospel songs per service, as well as a chorus in the morning (not including the invitation). One of the hymns we sang that morning was Fairest Lord Jesus. I don’t know if we had ever sung that hymn at our church before. If we have, I don’t remember it. This isn’t a criticism of my church; I’m the one who picks the hymns!

As we sang (or rather, as the congregation sang and I played the piano), I looked at my pastor. He had stopped singing. It seemed to me that he was pondering the words of the hymn, and that he had been moved by them. That gave the words greater import to me, and my spirit was awakened and stirred. The first and fourth verses read:

Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son:
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honour,
Thou my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

Beautiful Saviour! Lord of all the nations!
True Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be Thine!

What wonderful words! Think about them: is Jesus your soul’s glory, and joy, and crown? The stirring words and simple, yet affecting melody and harmony touched my heart. Singing hymns like this one is very different fare from the upbeat, trendy happy-happy-happy-all-the-day songs we hear so often today.

Donald Hustad is an authority on church music. He is the author of a book called Jubilate: Church Music in the Evangelical Tradition, , a 595-page volume. On page 124, he has this to say about church music today, and I agree with him:

"American [and Canadian] evangelicals often exhibit a considerable gap between the materials they sing and the theology of their preaching. We confess to believe in a transcendent God who is above all His creation, yet sing few hymns which reveal Him in His excellencies. We insist on the ‘strong meat’ of biblical theology in our preaching, but seem to be satisfied with ‘milk’ or even lollipops in our hymns."

There is nothing inherently wrong with singing In My Heart There Rings a Melody, or even In My Life, Lord, Be Glorified, but our congregations also need solid food, to give them the spiritual nourishment that they need. They must learn biblical doctrine from their hymnbook as well as from the pulpit. As Hustad says in his book, “A hymn, a solo, an anthem or a cantata is first of all a theological concept expressed in words” (p. 76).

Let’s sing not only milk, but also Grade A steak.


outport said...

This is good, Brent. The hymns of what the Lord has done for us are great, but, oh, the power in those that focus on God's majesty and the truths of His character. Keep the articles coming; you make me think.
Mrs. Homan
("Outport" is us--FYI, since I didn't sign some posts.)

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