On Mondays for several months now, I’ve been writing about music for the Christian assembly–mostly worship-oriented music–thus the “MM” for “Monday Music.” As preface to this Monday’s offering, one who has 7 minutes instead of 4 might look here first.
These days, “solemn” isn’t a cool word to refer to the Christian assembly or worship (or anything Christian, really) … so I’m guessing that even the comparatively broad-minded worship leaders today who ever give a second glance at songs written before the last 20 or 30 years would pass over “Sweet Is the Solemn Voice that Calls” without the slightest consideration. Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever led this or seriously considered leading it, either. But look at the words:
Sweet is the solemn voice that calls
The Christian to the house of prayer;
I love to stand within its walls,
For thou, O Lord, art present there.
I love to tread the hallowed courts
Where two or three for worship meet,
For thither Christ Himself resorts,
And makes the little band complete.
‘Tis sweet to raise the common song,
to join in holy praise and love,
And imitate the blessèd throng
That mingle hearts and songs above.
Not bad thoughts, huh? Oh, I don’t suppose I’d recommend using this song in most churches, and I still doubt I’ll consider using it myself in anything but private or small-group devotional times, but there’s something unifying about it. Whether there’s any real relationship between Jewish songs of ascent and Christian “calls to worship,” it’s good to think of the gathering of saints now, to some extent. As I prepare to leave for a Christian assembly, it does me good to think of
- the Lord’s presence within the walls
- despite the out-of-context re-appropriation of Matthew 18:20, the notion that Jesus joins even two is valid
- vertically oriented songs sung in community
The final stanza penned by Lyte wasn’t included in the hymnal I grew up with. I’ll close with this sweet longing for concord (not grapes!) in the assembly. The desire is at once solemn and joyous.
Within these walls may peace abound;
May all our hearts in one agree;
Where brethren meet, where Christ is found,
May peace and concord ever be.