Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Saturday is Hymnday

This is another selection from my book Prayers of an Omega: Facing the Transitions of Aging 

Saturday is Hymnday

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph.5:19-20)

Lord of song, I woke this morning with joy in my heart, for today is Saturday, and Saturday is Hymnday. This is my comfort time, my time to sing my way through the old hymnbook.

I don’t want to forget the old hymns I learned as a child, for then I’d be turning my back on our journey together. I’d forget some of your love toward me.

I need this old hymns like a desert traveler longs for water in a dry and thirsty land. I will need them till I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Lord, you know I don’t like to complain, but I can’t get used to these new praise songs we’ll sing tomorrow in church. I try to clap and sway, but this old body doesn’t work that way. So Saturday I sing the old songs. To myself and to you.

They are a record of my pilgrimage with you these many decades. And this record of your faithfulness slips from me unless I go over it again and again.

“Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life ….” That was the first piece I learned to play on the piano. And when your Word became wonderful to me, I enjoyed the hymn even more.

I liked singing “Shall we gather at the river?” because we actually gathered at the river for a baptismal service. Scores of your children celebrated the decision of young Christians to walk with you. And dozens of unbelievers from the community watched from a distance.  Outdoor baptismal services had something to say for themselves.

Our first choir song at college was “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” From our director I learned to sing with meaning, not just to make sounds.

Each Sunday at the end of the service in the little white church, the congregation sang, “Take thou my hand, O Father, and lead thou me.”  This was more than a token song to end the service. It was a prayer asking you to go with each one of us in that congregation into the struggle of the week. Those were the Depression years. Not all of those people in their much-washed clothing were certain of enough food for the coming week. I never felt ready to leave until we had sung that song, even as today I don’t feel ready for the coming week until I have prayed that song.

We used to sing “There shall be showers of blessings” with more gusto than an overflow crowd at a close basketball game.  But we dragged through forty-seven verses of “Just as I am without one plea,” waiting for someone to heed the minister’s earnest call. Sometimes I felt like walking to the altar to make him feel better. But there was another time, another place, when I did come to you without one plea. That song reminds me of that coming and of our beginning life together.

“Great is thy faithfulness” and “How great thou art” bring tears to my eyes whenever I hear them. When it seemed everyone had deserted me, you, Lord, remained close. You gave strength to turn the valley of bitterness into a well of life.

The “thee’s” and “”thou’s” and other old-fashioned words that upset some people don’t bother me because I know you, the Giver of all words.

When I've sung the old hymns once again, my soul is at rest. They place my feet firmly in  your truth. Thank you for songs of faith that speak the language of my soul. Now I’m ready for tomorrow, for the tumbling loud music of today, and for all the rest.

Maybe, just maybe, when this generation is as old as I am, they’ll have their own Saturday, not hymn, but praise chorus day.  I’m betting on it, Lord.