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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
"A Word About 'Contemporary' Music"
"He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord" (Psalm 40:3). "Sing to the Lord a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! (Isaiah 42:10). "And they sang a new song" (Revelation 5:9).
In our nursing home ministry we use a large print hymn book with songs well known to the residents that many have sung since their childhood. This last Sunday I made the point that many were songs I recall singing in the little white frame church my grandmother attended in Harwood Missouri that I often visited as a child. Many of you know these songs such as "The Old Rugged Cross", "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" and "Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus".
A group of elderly residents dealing with Alzheimer's comes over from a memory care unit. One thing we can count on is that many will sing out an old hymn even though other aspects of their memory have been greatly diminished.
I was especially touched this last Sunday when they brought in an older lady who appeared to be in a stupor like state with her head bowed down and eyes closed. She was actually sitting in a room away from the main gathering when our service began. But some of the nurse's aids observed that she was singing along and wheeled her in to be with the other attendees. It was nice to observe the younger nurse's aids being sensitive to this.
There are many opinions about contemporary music in the church. We strongly believe the church needs to have a balance between older and newer songs, although the precise balance is rather subjective. We need to be singing music from previous generations reminding us that our faith is not a current fad, that Jesus is Lord of the past. We need to be singing newer songs reminding us that God still gives new songs to His people, and that He is Lord of our now.
Our church sings both contemporary and traditional church music and we are pleased with this balance. Sometimes people may actually be unaware whether a song is contemporary or traditional and we sang such a song this last Sunday. We have enjoyed "God of the Ages" for many years, first singing it as we recall in the church we served in New England. Although it is contemporary in the sense that it was written (or at least became popular) in our lifetime it is sung to an older Gaelic melody popularized in the song "Morning Has Broken". By the way the older you get the wider span you have regarding what constitutes "contemporary"!
Everything we sing was contemporary at one time. After all it had to be new to the generation that first sang it!
Thankfully, gifted musicians continue writing new songs for the church, fulfilling the Biblical call to "Sing to the Lord a new song". Margaret Clarkson who wrote "God Of The Ages" lived from 1915 until 2008 and blessed the church with a number of songs. But my favorite is "God Of The Ages" which chronicles God's providential care over His creation past, present and future.
God of the ages, history's Maker,
planning our pathway, holding us fast,
shaping in mercy all that concerns us:
Father, we praise you, Lord of the past.
God of this morning, gladly your children
worship before you, trustingly bow;
teach us to know you always among us,
quietly sovereign, Lord of our now.
God of tomorrow, strong overcomer,
princes of darkness own your command:
what then can harm us? We are your people,
now and forever kept by your hand.
Lord of past ages, Lord of this morning,
Lord of the future, help us, we pray:
teach us to trust you, love and obey you,
crown you each moment Lord of today!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, for Your creation which reaches back to the beginning of time and for that which is created this very moment we recognize You as our sovereign Lord. All that we have and all that we are is an act of Your generous and benevolent mercy extended to all generations, past, present and future. God of this morning, we thank You for the opportunities this day provides for us to sing to You a new song and to bring glory to Your name. God of tomorrow, we trust You for that which will bring about rejoicing and that which will bring forth sorrow, gain or loss. Blessed be the name of the One who gives and takes away. God of past ages, You are the same yesterday, today and forever. We trust in You - forever faithful, changing never God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three in One. Amen.
Prayer for the persecuted: Once again today our hearts are grieved as we hear reports about Christians fleeing for their lives and for those being murdered for their faith in Christ by the Isis terrorists and other radical Muslim groups. Our hearts go out to their families and their fellow believers. Let us faithfully pray for these dear brothers and sisters in the faith and for those who have the power to make a difference.
Two other thoughts for consideration on today's topic:
I recall a song popular when we were young Christians titled "Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music". At the time it seemed like a strange title but as I have aged it seems so generationally and culturally proud. After all who is determining what "good music" is here? Maybe the title should be, "Why Should The Devil Have All The Music I like". Then perhaps one should also check his preferences in music if that's what the devil has!!!
2) The designation "contemporary" itself is poor. For instance new southern gospel songs are being written but we don't typically call that genre of music contemporary.
Our friend Lee Smucker sent us a couple of photos of local scenes that our readers often comment on:
These Amish boys were practicing their baseball while jumping on a trampoline which makes for a great action photo though it also makes for a nervous Brooksyne as she viewed this photo. Trampolines are far more dangerous than parents and children realize when left unsupervised. On the other hand it is always a refreshing sight to see children enjoying the great outdoors free of electronic devices.
A neighbor out giving his pet goat a ride in the wagon.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"God of the Ages" Video Charles Billingsley This is not the Margaret Clarkson song referred to in the message but another by the same title we enjoy. There is actually a third song with this title written by Daniel C. Roberts over 100 years ago!
Margaret Clarkson biography
Sonshine Society is a resource we use in our nursing home ministry.
Stephen and Brooksyne Weber
(Click on photo to enlarge)
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