Throughout the Bible, hymns served as an integral part of the lives of God’s people. We see the references of hymns from the psalms of David to Jesus singing on the way to Gethsemane. In addition, one story always fascinated me. Paul and Silas imprisoned and beaten in prison sang hymns.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them Acts 16:25
Languishing and suffering in prison doesn’t seem an incentive to sing hymns, yet these men did. As a result of what he witnessed, their jailer chose to in turn minister to these men, and join them as a believer in Christ.
Following the Reformation, the number of church hymns exponentially increased. For many families, and even our country, great hymns of the church provide a soundtrack for major events. Music can deeply embed words into our minds and can stay with us through the passage of many years.
Transcending Even Dementia
Yesterday, I witnessed the power of these hymns as my wife, Gracie, sang at the hospital bed of a dear family friend. Pouring through a hymnal for more than two hours, Gracie’s voice brought joy and tears to the man and his family. Though struggling with dementia and at the end of his life, he mouthed the words of every hymn she sang.
Long before starting my three-decades journey as a caregiver, I found myself at the piano learning music. Before I could read, I remember standing next to my mother in church as she held a red hymnal. While unable to read the text, I noticed the staves and note shapes on the paper. As a pianist for more than fifty years, I increasingly appreciate the beauty, structure, and endurance of church hymns.
Requests From The Heart
Sunday’s find me regularly playing at church weaving together a medley of hymns reflecting the message of the sermon. During the week, I often receive requests by church members who share a particular story behind a favorite hymn. Afterwards, I regularly find the person requesting the hymn in tears as they share how meaningful it was for them to hear that hymn. The comments usually contain statements such as, “I remember hearing my mother hum that hymn around the house.” Furthermore, when I play special music for funerals, I ask for list of hymns beloved by the family. I never cease to be amazed at the power of those hymns to comfort and strengthen grieving families.
A Legacy of Belief
From generation to generation, the hymnal continues to be a treasure trove. Those before us who left a brilliant musical road map of how they struggled, worshiped, and endured through often harsh challenges. The music they music they left us, can lift us in our difficulties and strengthen our faith in profound ways. When the heart hurts and words fail, we may feel lost. Yet, leafing through a hymnal allows us to see the words of those who understood all of those experiences and more. Through the centuries, they offer their words and tunes to strengthen our souls.