Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Recycling Program

Somewhat recently, the music leader in our assembly introduced the hymn "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" with a new tune he had composed.  To give due credit, he did a good job reworking the melody, but the entire time we went through this song, I kept thinking, "But I like the old tune.  It's wonderful."  Call me stodgy traditionalist, but the older, seventeenth-century tune has stood the test of time.

I understand a musician's desire to energize a song by giving it a contemporary tune and tempo, but why rework the well-known, well-used hymns?  Why not dust off the "antiques" of hymnody?  Polish up those priceless works, and set them out for all to see and use.  As an example, I offer this gem written by Martin Luther.
O Lord, Look Down from Heaven, Behold
1 O Lord, look down from heaven, behold
And let Thy pity waken:
How few are we within Thy Fold,
Thy saints by men forsaken!
True faith seems quenched on every hand,
Men suffer not Thy Word to stand;
Dark times have us o’ertaken.
4 Therefore saith God, "I must arise,
The poor My help are needing;
To Me ascend My people’s cries,
And I have heard their pleading.
For them My saving Word shall fight
And fearlessly and sharply smite,
The poor with might defending."
2 With fraud which they themselves invent
Thy truth they have confounded;
Their hearts are not with one consent
On Thy pure doctrine grounded.
While they parade with outward show,
They lead the people to and fro,
In error’s maze astounded.
5 As silver tried by fire is pure
From all adulteration,
So through God’s Word shall men endure
Each trial and temptation.
Its light beams brighter through the cross,
And, purified from human dross,
It shines through every nation.
3 May God root out all heresy
And of false teachers rid us
Who proudly say: "Now, where is he
That shall our speech forbid us?
By right or might we shall prevail;
What we determine cannot fail;
We own no lord and master."
6 Thy truth defend, O God, and stay
This evil generation;
And from the error of their way
Keep Thine own congregation.
The wicked everywhere abound
And would Thy little flock confound;
But Thou art our Salvation.
Evangelicals will likely read the words and balk at the notion of introducing this into a contemporary worship service: there is no intimacy or mystical union with Jesus and no bridge with a repetitive phrase to lift up spirit in euphoric desire.  It does not speak of me and my passionate desire to do something.  No, it does none of that.  Instead, it just tells the truth of what God will do for us on account of Christ.  That makes it perfect.

Do we have any takers?

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I really, really hate it when these "contemporary" artists decided to mess with old songs. It's as if they have no imagination, so they steal words.