Sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done marvelous things! (Psalm 98:1)

Several Psalms invite us to “sing a new song” to God. New songs had a special meaning for our spiritual ancestors among the Hebrews. They signified new creativity in praise of the God who created this world. God made the world in such a wondrous way that the world can continue to create itself. When we praise that God with our own creativity, what we’re really doing is sharing in the creativity of God. Each generation – each day, even – lives God’s creation anew and adds its voice to the eternal chorus of praise.

At our worship services this month, I will invite us to sing a new song to the Lord (which I do more frequently than some of us may like). We will spend the month in John 6, where Jesus spends four weeks describing what it means that he is “the Bread of Life” and making connections with the sacrament of Communion we still celebrate. For each of those weeks, we’ll sing the hymn, “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart,” which connects closely to the ideas Jesus shares. Each verse ties in differently with what Jesus says, because God’s creativity in Christ (and in the church) has so many different layers.

I believe strongly in singing a wide variety of hymns. Every hymn celebrates a unique sense of who God is, through unique images, melodies, rhythms, and tempos. This variety helps us to praise God in ways that repetition doesn’t. Singing different texts in different moods helps us celebrate the goodness of a God who made all the parts of our experience. Musical variety teaches us new ways of singing, so our voices grow and become more flexible. In addition to variety, I look at several factors in choosing hymns for worship. If a tune is unfamiliar to us, I ask myself if it’s approachable for our variety of skill levels. I read the text to look for faithful connections to the biblical text for the week.

I try very hard not to neglect hymns just because I don’t personally care for them. My tastes are eclectic, but there are some favorites that I think are stinkers. Because I am not the whole church on my own, I try to include even those of “our” hymns that I don’t as much enjoy. However, I have to confess that I have my favorites just like we all do. As much as I try to be neutral, I’m going to tend toward hymns I know, like, and find to reflect my personal theology. These tendencies will almost certainly not mirror your individual preferences.

So, I want to invite your help: please let me know what hymns you identify with and find meaningful. These can be “old standard” hymns or things the rest of us may never have heard. Some of your favorites may be in our current blue hymnal, and some may not. Please write down your favorites and give them to me at worship or in the office. We’ll compile a list of “Hope’s Favorite Hymns” and try to work them into worship regularly. We’ll also keep singing hymns we don’t all know, and probably some hymns we do know but don’t actually care for all that much. With your help, we’ll continue to sing ever-new songs to the Lord.

Peace,

Nathan

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