Once upon a time, three celebrated, published, widely respected scholars of Pauline literature¹ were brought together for a panel discussion. Before closing the evening, the host asked them a more personal question: “What is your favorite hymn”?
There were no “Amazing Grace” or “Old Rugged Cross” answers. (Those are not really hymns, anyway.) There was no negligible “”Well, my grandmother used to like . . .” musing or “When I was a kid, we sang . . . “ garbage.
No, these deeply educated, inspiringly faith-filled men gave some very worthwhile answers, in my opinion:
“O for a Thousand Tongues To Sing,” said one.
“And Can It Be?” said another.
And the third cited “This Is My Father’s World.”
And I was rejuvenated by their choices.
Maybe my dismally negative view of most congregational singing is premature.
Or, more likely, I haven’t been traveling in the circles that these men travel in. They are thoroughly conversant with Pauline scripture, not to mention being apparently personally devoted to Paul’s theologies — which led them to fine choices when asked about their favorite hymns. Each of the panel scholars readily relates the words and thoughts of the song to his personal knowledge of Paul. (If any reader is interested in listening to this panel discussion, just post a comment here, and I’ll dig up the link in a reply.)
Read the words sometime. Sing the songs. Or, if you just can’t stand Christian music conceived in other centuries, write your own music for these words. Whatever you do, spend some time with the words of these songs. They are worth it.
[This is an installment in the now-less-active Monday Worship Music series. Find other, related posts through this link.]
¹ Ross Wagner, Bruce Corley, and N.T. Wright