Why Do the Nations Rage? (from Psalm 2)

Why do the nations rage
And peoples plot in vain?
For kings conspire against the Lord
To overthrow His reign.
Against both God and Christ,
They set themselves and say,
“Now let us burst Their bonds apart
“And cast Their cords away!”

But God in heaven laughs
And speaks in fury still,
“On Zion I have set My King,
“Upon My holy hill.”
I make His judgment known;
To Me He has decreed,
“Today I have begotten You;
“You are My Son indeed.”

So then, O kings, be wise;
Be warned, O lords of earth;
Obey the Lord with holy fear,
And tremble in your mirth.
Do homage to the Son,
Or perish in the path;
How blest are all who trust in Him
But rightly fear His wrath!

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Hymn Form and the Congregation

When it comes to congregational worship, I believe these three things are true:

  1. Content is the most important characteristic of a sacred song.
  2. Structure makes content accessible.
  3. Most members of a congregation are not trained singers, so unfamiliar music hinders them in their worship.

Taken together, these three things indicate that the most useful songs for the congregation contain good content in a highly structured form with music that is as easy to learn as possible.  I don’t think it’s any accident that this description matches many of the best traditional hymns. Continue reading

Scripture in Hymns

In the comments on my post yesterday (which discussed, among other things, the importance of humility), a sister noted that her grandson had been wandering around the house yesterday singing “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.”  In response, somebody else observed that it showed how hymns are an important vehicle for teaching Scriptural truth.

I will never decline an invitation to board that particular bandwagon!  However, I believe that it’s true not only of sung-Scripture hymns like “Humble Yourselves” (if I were a composer, I would probably do nothing but set verses to music), but also of many of the greatest hymns of all time.  If we have memorized the lyrics to those hymns, we also have memorized a sizable number of Scriptures, often without realizing it.  Continue reading

The Future of Song Worship

A week ago, my brother D. J. Bulls posted an article about the high-church standard “All Creatures of Our God and King” on his blog.  At the beginning of the article, though, he said something even more interesting than his analysis of the hymn.  He reported that according to his observations (and D.J. is vastly more knowledgeable about worship trends than I am), we are in the middle of a worship shift away from Christian contemporary music back to. . . traditional hymns.

Frankly, I find this astounding.  My worship tastes are moderately conservative, but I figured that in holding those tastes, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, I alone was left.  Instead, I learn that rather than being a voice crying in the wilderness, I am part of A Trend.

It’s almost disappointing.  I enjoy being a solitary prophet of doom, equipped with sandwich boards bearing “Abide With Me” on one side and “Sun of My Soul” on the other, proclaiming, “The end is near!”  Except apparently the end isn’t near.  The beginning is.

If indeed this is the case, if people are beginning to look back in order to move forward, here is what I would like to see from the worship of the church in the decades to come. Continue reading

The Banality of Bad Hymns

The other day, somebody posted the above hymn on the Facebook group “I’m Fed Up With Bad Church Music”.  The posting prompted considerable debate about whether it was, in fact, a bad hymn.  My own initial reaction was, “Wow; that’s bad!”  My second reaction was, “Why am I so sure that this is bad?”

After all, it isn’t bad in the ways that hymns are usually bad.  It has a point.  It doesn’t wander from that point.  It uses consistent rhythm, rhyme, and meter.  Usually, that’s a recipe for a hymn that is at least mediocre.  However, I don’t feel like this one even makes it over the bar of mediocrity.  In fact, the word it brought to mind was “banal”, which the dictionary tells us means, “commonplace, trite”.  It’s simply too inelegant to work well as a hymn.  In particular, I think the problems are: Continue reading