I remember going to church as a very bored child, and flipping through the hymnals during service to try to find something good. I remember not being very satisfied very often.
I was thinking yesterday about how strange it is when the Holy Spirit breathes on a song. There are some songs that are well composed, and can evoke some sort of emotional response. Then there are songs, every once in a while, that spark revival in your spirit. You don't even have to be trying for those songs.
There are several in a modern worship repetoire, but what I've been musing over lately is hymns that the Holy Spirit chooses to nod at. A new song is a little more understandable because, fine, God's doing a new thing. New thing, new song. But hymns are old and this is still happeneing.
Musically, most hymns are very similar. They use chords that many worship leaders today find uncomfortable, but they all use the same uncomfortable chords. They use the same strange progressions, and they sing on the beat almost all the time. Most hymns convey the same basic ideas in their lyrics; they're usually more generic in content than a lot of modern worship songs. Isolate almost any hymn and it looks like a masterpiece, but line it up with its peers and it conforms.
So how is it that a certain few remain the collective favorites decades to centuries later? How Deep the Father's Love for Us, It Is Well With My Soul, and Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee are a few. How have thousands fallen by the wayside, but a few will still reach to the depths of us?
It's not the music. It's probably not the lyrics. I know it's not nostalgia, because I never really knew a hymn until I met Jesus a few years ago. They're not offering any fresh, new sound or revelation. I don't have any answers.
I do have some fresh inspiration, though. I'm thinking it will be fun (when I get back from India) to fill out a basic structure of some of these hymns with my own arrangements. I'm starting with It Is Well With My Soul, because I stumbled across the following video again recently. Like I said, though, I'm kind of new to this, so there are probably some classics I don't know about. What are some favorite hymns?