Pastor’s Page September 2017

August 29, 2017

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits. … when man’s natural musical ability is whetted and polished to the extent that it becomes an art, then do we note with great surprise the great and perfect of wisdom of God in music, which is, after all, His product and His gift.  … A person who does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God … should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” – Martin Luther, 1538

What a summer!

With much planning and the work of many hands and minds, we moved our worship from the sanctuary to Reynard Hall. Artists and artisans in our congregation turned the hall into a beautiful worship space; the hospitality crew arrived early to make the coffee; and the deacons ensured the myriad details of worship were tended to.

Our hall is a busy place with various events, fundraisers, and building projects. Throughout the summer, whatever had to be moved for the week’s activities, our band of volunteer Trustees faithfully made sure we were ready for Sunday 9 a.m. worship!

Sunday mornings, we became a little more familiar with the New Century Hymnal, and read scripture printed in the bulletin.  Meanwhile, the sermon series invited us to take an up-close-and-personal look at a dozen of our favorite hymns. We learned about the people who wrote them, the “back stories,” and the theological meanings of the lyrics. Many folks have requested this be the basis of our sermon series every summer – and there are surely enough hymns that we could do this for decades and never duplicate!

As we wind up our series, I’d like to express my hope that we might be coming to appreciate more fully the power of the hymns we sing. The hymns bind us together as a congregation, and convey profound thoughts about God, Jesus, and the life of faith. These aren’t random words on a page.  These are perhaps the most powerful tools to learn, exercise, express, and share our Christian faith.

Martin Luther, quoted above, included the congregational singing of hymns in worship as a key ingredient of the Protestant Reformation.  I’ll also repeat a quote from a 1966 article, “Hymns and Heresies” by Prof. Alvin C. Porteous:  “Hymns are among the most potent vehicles for religious nurture and theological instruction that the church possesses. The spiritual vitality, the scriptural fidelity and the theological maturity of individuals and congregations are often more dependent on what is sung than on what is formally taught in church or in Sunday school.”

Between Martin Luther and Prof. Porteous, another man sensed the importance and potential of what we sing in worship: the famed evangelist Dwight L. Moody, who was born in Northfield, Mass., in 1837. He believed hymns should be written in the ordinary language of common people, easy to sing, with the kind of tune that would stick with you. He found somebody to write some new “gospel” songs, and to his delight, these songs had people clapping their hands and stomping their feet. In his generation, these hymns became a new way people could participate in the worship service, and build community among themselves.

Our favorite hymns come in many forms: some new, some old, some long, some short. Some have lyrics that are easily grasped the first time you sing them; others have lyrics that a person could ponder for a long time, in the way we might ponder scripture.  For all the hymns that we’ll be singing in the coming year, I’d like to encourage you to begin paying special attention to the words. What do they say about God? What do they say to you? Do you agree with all of it? Discuss these hymns with your partner or your friend. Does he or she understand it the way you do?

I’m looking forward to the return of our hard-working choir at our Sept. 10 Homecoming, and grateful for all those talented people who’ve been sharing their musical gifts all summer long.

Our Music Director Michelle Gordon is always on the lookout for singers and musicians to help our church worship. If you like to sing, come join the choir! If you play an instrument – the guitar, piano, or anything at all – don’t hide your light under a bushel basket. Talk to Michelle!

Meanwhile, may the hymns we sing as a worshipping community continue to bless you!

Rev. Amy Lignitz Harken

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