Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Old, Rugged

When I visited Mammaw, we always went to church. I often chose to attend the "old lady Sunday School class" instead of the class for my age group, since I didn't particularly like to go into a room full of children I didn't know. The old ladies welcomed me, and I felt more comfortable there with my grandmother. One thing that they did was sing. I don't remember who taught the class, but I remember the lady who played the piano (perhaps they were one and the same?) and led the hymns. She was young in comparison to the octogenarians who made up the class -- probably in her sixties. I sang the hymns with them, sometimes holding back laughter, and later my sister, cousin and I enjoyed playfully imitating the old shaky voices.

I like hymns. I'm not afraid to say it, although today they are often criticized as being stuffy, irrelevant, and completely out of sync with today's culture. We once had a visiting preacher who was on the board of our denomination say that while he loved the new praise choruses, he hoped that hymns wouldn't be phased out all together, because in learning hymns, we learn doctrine. I heard another leader say once that hymns are all about God, while praise choruses tend to focus more on our experiences with God.

One thing that I appreciate about BSF is that we do sing hymns. The hymns are intentionally chosen to teach and go along with the lesson, adding to the weekly lesson. For me hymns are not stuffy, not irrelevant. Singing them and hearing them is beautiful, worshipful, and relevant to my experience with God. This appreciation of hymns and the fact that I actually know hymns, which fewer and fewer people do since they are sung less and less frequently, led me to volunteer for my church's nursing home ministry.

Each Sunday a team goes to a nursing home and provides a church service for the residents. Most of them are in wheelchairs. Some of them are blind. Others can't hear well. Their minds are confused. But when the piano begins to play, they sing. Men and women who can't remember that their spouse has been dead for ten years remember these songs.

I joined the team on Sunday. We began the service by singing a few hymns. A short message was given, and then we closed with four or five more hymns. One of the last that we sang was "The Old Rugged Cross." Even when it was played as a prelude while the residents were filing in, they could not stop themselves from humming or singing along, so when it came time to sing it, their voices were strong.

They love this hymn.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
I sang along with them, and this time I didn't have to suppress a giggle and I didn't poke fun later on in private. I wish that this present life didn't hold me back from clinging to that cross for all I'm worth. I'm going to keep singing and keep watching this generation who is once again able to have the faith of a child that Jesus Himself praised.

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Matthew 19:13-14

8 comments:

Dianne said...

Good post. I always think about that verse in Colossians where it says to sing "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." I think all have their place in our lives.

Beck said...

I love hymns - and I HAAAATE modern praise songs. Ick! My church is really fond of songs about rainbows and our mother God and I often feel like banging my head on my pew. So yes, I would much rather sing The Old Rugged Cross, too.

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

Great post! We love hymns, also. What you described is why I like to play hymn cds for my kids. I want the songs in their unconscious memories. = )

Jen Rouse said...

I love hymns too! And I think that their lyrics (speaking generally here, as there are some excellent newer songs) are more profound and do teach more theology than do modern choruses, which often repeat the same phrases over and over without saying much of anything.

I also love the inter-generational aspect of these old, traditional songs--that people who are 80 and people who are 8 can sing the same beloved tunes. My grandfather used to lead music at my childhood church, and "The Old Rugged Cross" was a favorite of his.

Katrina said...

While I like both hymns and praise choruses, I must say that hymns hold a certain beautiful tradition in my mind -- tying me/us to generations past, bringing to life the faith of our fathers. I wonder if our children will be able to join in with hymns as easily as we do. I grew up singing them week after week, so when our church's worship leader starts a hymn, the words just flow from my memory. My kids are growing up in a church that does sing hymns, but that sings choruses or modern songs of faith more often. I don't want them to miss out on the beauty of hymns...

heather said...

I love hymns too. I love when songwriters today take an old, cherished hymn and add a chorus.
It's like we're interacting with the saints of old.

Kelly said...

While I enjoy both old and new, hymns have such rich theological lyrics. It is amazing how many times they come to mind when I am studying scripture. We have bought several CDs of hymns to enjoy as a family. I do not want my kids to miss out on these treasures! Enjoyed this post:)

Sheila said...

I love old hymns, too. Our church does a cool thing in that we have hymns put to new music.

I used to do a seniors ministry as a teen/young adult. There was a man who asked for Old Rugged Cross *every* time. :)