Tuesday, October 14, 2008
On Writing a Hymn
If you didn't know. I am on the chapel staff. I help out with the 4:00 Vespers Service preparing the sticky notes in the hymnals, for the lectors and liturgists whom I hi-jack from the student body and faculty. One of the duties in preparing the services is to pick out the hymns for the week. Here is a few interesting discoveries I have made:
1) There are a large number of hymns which come from the psalms... and rightfully so. Since, the psalms are the hymnbook of the Old Testament, it is only fitting that we sing many of the songs which they did then.
2) The second thing however, is how much explicit Christology is missing from the hymns which are based solely off of hymns.
Addressing the second point, I, of course, understand that all the psalms are to be understood with Christ in mind. But, I am not sure that many people do have Christ in mind when they are singing. In fact it is often is easier to make God seem abstract in singing the psalms, than understanding that the psalms really speak about Christ.
With this in mind, Kurios, the name used to address Jesus is, in fact, the same word used over and over again in the Old Testament and the Psalms. This title, Kurios, points to Jesus as God, as the one who has done the marvelous deeds and as the one to whom Israel cries out when they are in distress.
But, you understand all this from a careful study of the text and a proper understanding of the Scriptures. So, what of a psalm made into a hymn? Often, it is hard to see Christ in the hymn text without reading Him into it. The hymn does not explicitly show Christ, and thus, I think is very deficient.
We know who Jesus is and what he has done. The Jews and others in writing the psalms only knew what God had done for them, and what he was going to do for them, even though they didn't know exactly how. We have that advantage; we know how Jesus has fulfilled the promises of God. I think that it is sad that we did not take the opportunity in writing psalmic hymns, sermons of the Church, to include Jesus and what he has done.
Without Jesus the church is nothing. Without preaching Christ, specifically Christ, then people are not saved, and Christians are not edified.