Sunday, January 31, 2016
A blast from the past outdated hymnal
This Christmas I received the gift of a hymnal more than 111 years old, imprinted with the name Lulu Schulz, and I marveled at a book that included all of Luther's Catechism with additional questions and answers, most of the liturgical rites common to the life of the church, the Augsburg Confession, all the Psalms, and the requisite hymns and liturgies. Outdated? Certainly not!
A hymnal might be judged unfaithful if it does not faithfully confess the mystery of God and His work of redemption. It might be deemed shallow if its songs speak too much of the heart of the people singing and too little of the Gospel which gives than cause to rejoice. It might be deemed inferior if its words or music were faddish and more accurately reflected the moment than the legacy of the faith and the best of the present age. But how can you call a hymnal outdated?
Sure, the world has discarded the ancient cadence and style of Elizabethan English and prefers modern syntax but that does not make the hymnal outdated. Maybe the world has deemed the chant of ancient days passe or the great chorales too difficult but that does not make the hymnal outdated. In fact, these judgments are themselves subject to trend, fad, and whim and may not be sustained by the ages that follow. But the books remain and their testament to the Gospel in song stands as witness to the fact that we learned the faith from its instruction and still am in debt to its wisdom, faithfulness, and truth.
I could take any one of the many Lutheran hymnals on my shelf and have a perfectly usable book to inspire my tongue and teach my mind. Sure, some might be better than others and others lesser but outdated? No, not these books. If I held in my hands the hymnal given to my grandfather at his confirmation I would have a book still thoroughly usable and faithful (even if many of its texts and tunes did not pass into the current book used in the LCMS). If I opened the pages of the book that was new to my dad and ancient to me when I was confirmed, I would still have a wonderful treasure of words and music to teach and guide my heart and mind in the faith. Hymnals that are inferior probably should be discarded but hymnals that are otherwise faithful even though no longer in regular service are good books and worthy of our attention still.
Outdated? No way!