Tuesday, December 1, 2009

YOU ARE THERE! -- Devotional for November 30, from "Good Seeds"

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up (I Corinthians 14:26). And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30).

I remember a T.V. program I used to watch as a kid (back in the early days of television) that began with Walter Cronkite saying something like this: “The events you are about to see are all true: the places, the people – it all happened just as you witness them now, except…YOU ARE THERE!” What an interesting way to learn about the Landing of the Hindenburg, the Salem Witchcraft Trials, the Gettysburg Address, or the Fall of Troy. History can be either the most boring, or the most fascinating and rewarding subject to study, depending on how it is presented. The challenge to every history teacher – and this would include every Bible teacher – is to portray the people and events of former times in ways that put us right there with them. The French have a proverb, “The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” We know that without a clear understanding of the mistakes of the past we are doomed to repeat them. But what does history have to do with today’s Bible reading? Just this: Hymns. The hymnbook, right along with God’s Book, sends us back into history and places us right next to fellow believers of hundreds of years ago. When we sing hymns we are singing with them of the truths that are as dear to our hearts as to theirs, and we are giving glory to the same Lord. This affords us with a powerful and joyful awareness of the universal family of God, spanning all borders of time and geography. If we sing only the songs of today, written by our contemporaries, as much as they may speak to our hearts with today’s vernacular, they don’t afford to us the sense of belonging, or the experience of kinship with believers of yesteryear. As we sing of the “Faith of our Fathers,” we join our ancestors as they sang of theirs, who in turn sang of our mutual holy faith in our ever-living, never-changing Savior. Three hundred years ago they were singing, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.” Nearly two thousand years ago Christians were singing, “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be; world without end, Amen!” Are you sometimes disappointed with low church attendance or flagging enthusiasm for the kingdom of God? Open a hymnal and find yourself worshipping with a vast congregation of fellow Christians -- dear friends you’ve yet to meet! But you invite them, even now, into your fellowship when you sing what they sang. And regarding the worship of their God and yours – through hymns…YOU ARE THERE!

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