The melodious chant of the believers is as food to me. Let us sing the songs which the devout have always sung, let us keep to the course which they have chanted.
- The Rule of Cormac mac Ciolionain (Irish, 10th century)
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them..."
- Acts 4.24
I like the old hymns. There. I said it. It's not that I don't appreciate new songs to the Lord. Obviously, I do. What I don't appreciate is when the new songs crowd out the old stuff and all we're left singing is the latest climbers on the liturgical top ten.
It's more than just a matter of music. It's a matter of community. We should sing the songs our forebears sang - yes, as far back as we can - because we are part of their lives and they are part of ours. Their faithfulness, stoked in part by their singing, has made it possible for the Gospel to come down to us. To set aside their songs is, it seems to me, a scandal against the idea of Christian community.
The Church in Jerusalem faced a crisis when the Jewish leaders commanded them to shut up about the Gospel. What would they do? They came together, the apostles reported what they had been told, and then there must have been a moment of stunned silence. Until someone began singing Psalm 146.5 and 6, then modulated into Psalm 2. Whereupon everyone joined in together, praying and singing and chanting their confidence in the Lord using the same old songs David had taught the people of Israel to sing in his day.
Friends, I think we sin against our forebears when we cast aside their expressions of faith - whether creeds, confessions, theological tomes, or songs. For my money, the old stuff is richer, fuller, and more affecting than any of the new songs I've heard. So sing your new songs, by all means. But don't disconnect from the community of those whose faithfulness was the means of your faith.
Let's keep the old stuff, too. Please.
Today in ReVision: How did we miss that? - We missed it for the same reason we miss a whole lot else.
This Week's Download: Soul Friends