Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hymnal for Limpers

I love the Covenant Hymnal (and other hymnals as well). It probably goes back to my formative years with music and the love of parts. Reading music was part of my growing up culture, so I learned to read music about the same time I learned to tie my shoes. For the community in which I was raised, musical literacy was an assumed proficiency; like ice skating and skiing. Everyone sang or played some instrument. All children in the church were usher through Mrs. Opel's music classes Wednesday night where we learned about whole notes, half notes, rests and time signatures.
That ability has allowed me the freedom to pick up a hymnal and whistle-out (badly) the tune and meter. Where it gets fun is the match the words to the sounds and then to read the stories and backgrounds to those hymns, that come from all sorts of cultures and time periods. It's important, however, to avoid sounding elitist. Because not all communities pushed musical literacy like mine did. A lot of intelligent and wonderfully committed Christians cannot read music, and probably will not read music.
But that's still OK, because most of them read English. And the straight texts of many of these hymns, especially the ones that have survived several generations, are devotionally superb! They condense great spiritual truths into tight phrases that can get planted in the heart and mind.
Olavi Kaukolo, a Finish pastor who wrote "Riches of Prayer" said: "The hymnal can be a crutch of one whose prayer limp."


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