Monday, December 15, 2008

When I was Young We Sang Our Faith

[This is a duplicate. It also appears in "Family Johns." I put it here because it is more sermonic.]

When I was young singing was a lively part of our worship at the Springfield Church of God. The songs we sang were about the things we loved, our hopes and dreams. Everybody sang; everybody sang loudly; it was part of our witness. We sang our faith.

Mostly we sang about Jesus. He was our friend.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

We could touch him.

Reach out and touch the Lord as He goes by.
You will find He's not too busy to hear your heart's cry.
He's passing by this moment, your needs He'll supply,
Just reach out and touch the Lord as He walks by.

And Talk with Him.

I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
It bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right

Sometimes my path seems drear,without a ray of cheer,
And then a cloud of doubt may hide the light of day;
The mists of sin may rise and hide the starry skies,
But Just a little talk with Jesus clears the way.

I may have doubts and fears, my eyes be filled with tears,
But Jesus is a friend who watches day and night;
I go to him in prayer, He knows my every care,
And Just a little talk with Jesus makes it right.

We sang a lot about going to heaven to be with him.

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus;
sing his mercy and his grace.
In the mansions bright and blessed
he'll prepare for us a place.

When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we'll sing and shout the victory!

I have good new to bring and that is why I sing
All my joys with you I will share
I'm gonna take a trip on that old gospel ship
And go sailing through the air

I'm gonna take a trip on that old gospel ship
I'm going far beyond the sky
I'm gonna shout and sing, until the heavens ring
When I'm sailing through the sky

We also sang about how happy we were to be Christians.

Oh happy day, Oh happy day
When Jesus washed
Oh when he washed
He washed my sins away/He taught me how
to watch, fight and pray
fight and pray
Oh happy day, Oh happy day
When Jesus washed
Oh when he washed
He washed my sins away/We´ll live rejoicing
ev´ry day, ev´ry day
Oh happy day, Oh happy day
When Jesus washed
Oh when he washed
He washed my sins away

And we sang about the Holy Ghost, but those songs were mostly about the ongoing work of Jesus.

They were in an upper chamber,
They were all with one accord,
When the Holy Ghost descended
As was promised by the Lord.

O Lord, send the power just now,
O Lord, send the power just now;
O Lord, send the power just now
And baptize every one.

Yes, the power from Heav’n descended
With the sound of rushing wind;
Tongues of fire came down upon them,
As the Lord said He would send.

Yes, this “old time” power was given
To our fathers who were true;
This is promised to believers,
And we all may have it too.


O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found,
Wherever human hearts and human woes abound;
Let ev’ry Christian tongue proclaim the joyful sound:
The Comforter has come!

The Comforter has come, the Comforter has come!
The Holy Ghost from Heav’n, the Father’s promise giv’n;
O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found—
The Comforter has come!
Comforter has come!

Lo, the great King of kings, with healing in His wings,
To ev’ry captive soul a full deliverance brings;
And through the vacant cells the song of triumph rings;
The Comforter has come!

O boundless love divine! How shall this tongue of mine
To wond’ring mortals tell the matchless grace divine—
That I, a child of hell, should in His image shine!
The Comforter has come!

Thinking about then and now, when I was young we mostly sang to each other about Jesus and what He meant to us. Today we seem to sing more to God and less about God. Our current songs are beautiful expressions of adoration and exaltation. I love them and never want to lose them. But I miss the old songs and I wonder how the change is affecting us.

Worship now seems more rich and personal; it comes from deep within us. However, it almost seems private, as if we come to church to sing because it helps us get alone with the Lord. Within the crowd we enter our own private bubbles of glory.

When I was young our songs were about our shared testimony. They told the story of how we found Jesus, or He found us, and what He means to us. When we sang we were witnesses to the reality of life in Christ. Singing was a way of remembering what God had done for us, what He had promised to us, and why we are here. I fear our singing today is too much aimed at our personal benefit in the here and now. It reminds me of a popular Southern Gospel Song circa 1970, “Me and Jesus got a good thing going, me and Jesus got it all worked out, don’t need nobody to tell me what it’s all about.”

My other concerns with today’s worship music are that the songs are too hard to sing and too hard to remember. Gone is the simple cycle of refrain followed by chorus; we now have bridges and transitions to contend with. Today’s songs sound great with a synthesizer and a talented praise team, but they are hard for most of us to sing in the shower. This is a problem for our culture as a whole; we are a people who have no national songs, even our commercials are missing familiar ditties (“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.” “You Deserve a Break today, so get up and get away.”). We have stars who sing to us. The rest of us listen and at best hum along. It dawned on me a few years ago this is a very troubling trend. A nation without a song is a nation without a soul. Our songs, the ones we sing to our children and to each other, convey the truths we hold dear. In this age of extreme tolerance and uncertainty, there is little room for public singing that conveys a message.

As for me, I love to occasionally sing the old songs with people who know how to worship through them. But I know we can’t go back. Those songs, words and melodies, were birthed in a different time and represent a different culture. However, they did communicate something of the Gospel that seems missing today. Is it possible for someone to write us some songs that we can all sing, songs that we can sing to each other and to the world, songs that proclaim the Gospel? We’ll keep our Hill Songs, I promise.

1 comment:

Phil Hoover, Chicago said...


"He'll pilot me from day to day
When Blinded eyes, can't see the way!
Let come what may, over life's dark sea,
My blessed Lord will pilot me!"