Yeah, I don’t do well with blogging regularly. I guess it’s time for me to fully admit that fact. I’m trying, though. I’ve been focusing on/avoiding working on my book about our journey with Samantha. It’s hard. Harder than I imagined it would be. There’s something about diving into that emotional ocean that just overwhelms me, so I stay on the shore and just think about swimming instead of getting in.
But in all that “thinking,” God’s been working on me. My plan for framing the book is the church liturgical year. It’s one of the things I like best about being a Lutheran, because this framework for my year just grounds everything in my life. I’m not tied into the fluctuations or whims of the world, where the school year is different in every state (hello, New York where the kids go through the whole month of June!!!). I don’t get bothered by the seasons not lining up right (like living in Texas where we went from winter to summer overnight this year. No spring, nope).
One of the best parts of this liturgical living is the richness of our hymns. Don’t get me wrong, I love all kinds of worship. I think our praise team is awesome, and I enjoy having a church service that is blended, with both hymns and contemporary music. But the part of me that was drawn to studying English in college absolutely adores our hymns. There is a poetry in them that is so often missing from newer songs. The language soars with the music and I am often in awe of God in the midst of singing. To me, it’s like reading Shakespeare and listening to the symphony at the same time.
I feel the most like this when singing our Lenten hymns, but there is beauty throughout the church year in the language and poetry. For example, there’s a song called “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing,” used for communion but also at Easter. In verse 6 comes the line, “Now no more can death appall.” It reminds me of a class I took on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, where we talked about her using the word “appall” and implying both “horrify” and also a reference to the “pall” cloth placed on the casket at a funeral.
And last Sunday, for Ascension, we sang “A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing,” which has the line “The holy apostolic band” in verse 2. And where else can we find language like the hymn “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” but during Holy Week?
I know sometimes the hymns are difficult to sing. One of the benefits of having a praise team leading the contemporary songs is that everyone can figure out the notes. We don’t always have the same benefit during the hymns, but I try to sing out when I can. I figure if I ever get to record myself singing, it’ll probably just be a compilation of favorite hymns from each season. Like how every. single. artist. has to put out a Christmas album (Adele, where is yours?), but I would probably skip that section, or go for the non-radio ones like “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” or “Once in Royal David’s City.” But for me, it would be Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Advent, and Epiphany.