Here I stand ‘neath sun and moon,
Not a clue what I’m singing,
I just love the tune.
                -Ancient Alexandria Quote attributed to Jasonius Abelonian.

 

Often during chorister rehearsals, as we are singing through a hymn, I’ll instruct the kids to close their hymnals and I’ll ask them to tell me about the hymn which we just sang. “What is it about?” I’ll ask. Invariably, someone will respond, “Ummm, it’s about Jesus….and God.” I reply, “Yes, but I want something a little more specific.”

As many have heard me say, the hymnal must surely be the greatest source of inspirational poetry outside of the Bible itself. Yet, far too often I worry we sing with great conviction and enthusiasm these words without ever really digesting them.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;
Content to let my pride go by, to know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross. (Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane)

 

In the just reward of labor, God’s will be done.
In the help we give our neighbor, God’s will be done.
In our worldwide task of caring for the hungry and despairing,
In the harvests we are sharing, God’s will be done. (Fred Pratt Green)

 

E’en now by faith we join our hands with those that went before,
And greet the everliving bands on the eternal shore. (Charles Wesley)

 

O let me hear thee speaking in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, thou guardian of my soul. (John Ernest Bode)

 

Even if you’re one who doesn’t enjoy singing hymns (GASP!), I encourage you to use your hymnal as a source for prayer. And, for those of you who do sing, make a conscious effort to understand what you are singing. In the words of the RSCM motto taken from 1 Corinthians 14:15, “I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also.” Pretend there will be a quiz at the end of each hymn in which you’ll have to tell me about what you just sang; I suspect you’ll find a new appreciation for our hymnody.