In the late summer of 2012, the worship ministries group of the congregation I pastor began considering whether to preorder Lift Up Your Hearts for our pews. Since I am a member of the hymnal’s editorial committee, I said very little during those discussions. Although I occasionally answered questions that arose, I wanted to ensure that the decision was made in the congregation’s best interest rather than because I was pushing it through. Nonetheless, I could barely contain my excitement when I heard the decision had been made to proceed with the preorder.
"A new hymnal for a new generation.” Sounds like the latest television advertisement, except the word “hymnal” just doesn’t seem to fit. You can almost hear people asking, “Isn’t a hymnal something from, like, 1901, where they sing songs accompanied by ancient, dusty instruments?”
In the beginning . . . there was chaos. Then God brought light into the darkness, and waters were separated and given boundaries, forming land that brought forth living things and beauty. God created humans to participate in and enjoy the beauty. And it was good. Then the people God made in his own image willfully brought the chaos back, and there was a new darkness, new storms, new desert places.
The sung word has an inherent power that pierces the heart, mind, and imagination all at the same time. For example, we speak about the lyrical beauty of poetry and the spiritual reach and depth of the psalms. When the psalms are sung and received well by the worshiper, they become deeply embedded in memory. They speak the language of the worshiper’s joy and lament.
Part of my job at Faith Alive Christian Resources and on the editorial committee for the new hymnal Lift Up Your Hearts was to be one of the “theological police.” But is it truly important to make sure hymns pass theological muster? They’re only songs, after all.
In recent years a number of people have asked me why I would ever get involved with creating a hymnal. Among the many comments I received were these:
"Aren’t hymnals a thing of the past?”
“There are so many new songs. Why would we sing those old, irrelevant ones?”
“This is the digital age. Why get stuck with a book that’s out of date the moment it’s printed?”
“Why would a contemporary/modern church ever buy a hymnal?”
We all have scars, from the unsutured nicks of our childhood to long gouges left on a chest from bypass surgery, to the empty rippled space from a mastectomy. Some scars are readily visible; others are hidden and remain hidden from embarrassment or reticence.