Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Favorite Hymns

This past year at my church we conducted a worship survey and came up, in part, with a list of favorite hymns. Here are our top 10:
1. #378 Amazing Grace
2. #377 It Is Well With My Soul
3. #504 Old Rugged Cross
4. #314 In the Garden
5. #593 Here I am Lord
6. #572 Pass It On
7. #77 How Great Thou Art
8. #431 Let There Be Peace
9. #143 On Eagle’s Wings
10. #344 Lord, You have Come to the Lakeshore

(numbers are from the United Methodist Hymnal)

I was looking over these yesterday in preparation for my summer preaching, where I will be focusing on one of these hymn choices each Sunday and preaching on their theology and significance (while trying to fit in the lectionary as well, hence the what is for me quite-in-advance planning). So I've been thinking about this mix of 10 hymns and musing on what this eclectic selection of songs means about our theology, assuming this list isn't too unusual for congregations.
1. I'm not surprised that Amazing Grace makes the number one spot. After all, what is more meaningful to us than an understanding that God's grace covers us and our faults? We may not be ready to think about God's grace extending to people that we don't like much, but we can at least grasp that it is pretty cool that God's grace covers us. So I think we do well to love this hymn so much.
2. It Is Well with My Soul - I wonder if this is mostly a Methodist favorite, given Wesley and his societies' emphasis on the "how is it with your soul?" theme, or if it's just an all-around winner. I have to admit, it is one of my favorites too - I remember clearly singing this on September 11th, 2001, at a Drew chapel service, as we were still learning of the tragedies of the day, singing under the direction of our talented Mark Miller. It was also very influential in the writing of my very first sermon. The hymn is comforting, strengthening. I've had it requested at many funerals as well. But again it is interesting to note that like Amazing Grace, it is a self-focused hymn. Me and my faith. Hmmm.
3. The Old Rugged Cross may be a favorite of my congregation, but not on my own top 10 or 25 or 50 list... So why so loved? It definitely is more popular with some of our 'old-timers'. Theologically - it's focus is what it claims: the cross, the passion itself. The suffering sacrifice of Jesus. I guess that's why, aside from musical reasons, this hymns is not moving to me. Jesus' passion is not my focus as much as teaching and resurrection and spirit of Christ. But given the recent success of Mel Gibson's Passion, there is obviously a place for focus like this!
4. In the Garden. Another Me and My Jesus/Me and My Faith selection. This one, at least, I like more than I ever used to because it was my later grandfather Millard Mudge's favorite, and I can't dislike anything he liked, I admired him so much.
5. Here I am, Lord - Finally, some action related to the meaning. Responding to God's call - when we do that, we usually run into some other people in our answering! Who will serve? Who will meet people's needs in God's name?
6. Pass it On - I have a congregation of campers, and i consider this first and foremost a 'camp song', so maybe that's why this one is so popular. I do like it well enough. About spreading the good news. I'm down with that!
7. How Great Thou Art - A praise song, which is good to make at least somewhere on the list. But note, it's still 'me and God' in language.
8. Let There Be Peace on Earth - Here we go - outward reaching. Relationship building. In times of war such as this one in Iraq that continues to plague our world, even in the midst of such very intense patriotism, it was refreshing to see that peace could make our list at St. Paul's.
9. On Eagle's Wings - Our hymnal only includes the chorus, not the verses, so I was suprised such a short little refrain made the list. Like a benediction/blessing hymn.
10. Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore - I love this hymn, and think it is lyrically and musically beautiful. I was surprised my congregation picked it, though, because it is (relatively) new, it is Spanish, it is not a straight typically-catchy melody. But it was chosen even as a favorite for a funeral of one of our older, dedicated church members, Don Perling. This is still about self and God, but it is more complext than most, I think, of this variety. The last line, about "seeking other seas", inspires us to get up, get out, and get to work.

Just some thoughts. But I guess that my reflection is: few hymns here that are more about us doing work for God than about God doing work for us, few hymns that are more about others and their needs than ourselves and our needs. I guess it's only natural. And my own favorite hymns aren't so theologically-stellar always. As a musically-educated person, I often like hymns first based on their tunes, then their lyrics, though both are needed to make my top list. My favorite: Be Thou My Vision.

What's on your top 10? Why?
Post a Comment