Some songs are just classics that will go down through the ages. See if you can complete this song lyric:
Just a small town girl…
If you finished the line with,
Living in a lonely world
She took the midnight train going anywhere
then, congratulations! You are familiar with the most downloaded song of the twentieth century, “Don’t Stop Believing” by the band Journey.
While it’s impressive for a song like “Don’t Stop Believing” to be a classic after more than thirty years, there are even older songs that remain among some of the most sung in churches today. “Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton in the eighteenth century. “The Doxology” was written a century earlier than that. “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was penned by Robert Robinson back in 1757. In spite of their age, these ancient hymns are still being played and sung in many churches today, with both original and new arrangements and melodies.
Lately, I’ve been pondering this question of why some worship songs withstand the test of time, while others are sung for only a few years and are then replaced by new ones. Is it the singable melodies of those old hymns that makes them so enduring? Maybe it’s their straight-forward poetic meter, or the rich theological content of their words.
Interestingly enough, many of those old hymns were written in response to a time of great trial or pain. How could so many beautiful songs come out of so much pain and suffering? My impression is that the lyrics of the hymn-writers are much more a reflection of what they were filled with prior to suffering, as opposed to what they could muster up after suffering had already hit them. As Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
Perhaps, the heart must be filled with something beautiful and enduring in order to express something beautiful and enduring.
This week at Mission, we will be singing a number of these time-tested hymns together as we engage in some more traditional, historical church practices in our Vintage Worship service. As we do, I challenge you to reflect with me on this question of whether we are being filled with something that is beautiful and enduring. Jesus says this is measured by how we are responding to people and events in our lives. Are we filling our souls with what is best for them? Are we regularly engaging with our beautiful, enduring God through the Holy Spirit in deep times of prayer, worship, and Scripture reading? Are we reflecting on things that are good and true as we move through our day? Personally, I must admit that I have a lot of room to grow in these areas. But, deep down, I desire the rich relationship with God that is the bedrock of such steadfastness and beauty.
What about you? What is it that is filling your soul?