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On the Mark, Episode 2: How Great is "How Great Thou Art?"

April 18, 2009

Hi everybody,

It's Saturday afternoon, and it's just gorgeous outside. What are you doing reading emails?

For Episode 2, I want to write about my favorite church hymn, one of the greatest ones not called "Amazing Grace." While at church on Easter, I started remembering all the traditional Easter songs we used to sing as a kid. Not sure of all of the titles, but I remember old ladies trying to belt out the high notes on a tune that went, “Up from the grave He arose! (MEN: He arose!) With a mighty triumph o'er his foes (MEN: O'er his foes) . . . .”

Then you had, “Christ the Lord is Risen to Day,” which peculiarly sounds like an Easterized version of Deck the Halls.

But my old-time favorite hymn was not sung last Sunday on Easter, and it made me sad. I remembered how much it meant to my mother, her mother before, etc. I remember a couple of years ago feeling moved by singing it at church, then later my mom said it made her cry . . . because her mom had loved that song so much (Along with "He Touched Me" -- what's happened to the great old classic?). But this song I have in mind intertwines the generations of a family together. It is a song for the ages.

Now I’m not against modern church and Christian music. But I’m beginning to think that some of the music directors at churches are shortchanging some of the old classics. And I realize that this is a constant battle in churches. Too much singing, not enough singing, too many old hymns, not enough old hymns, too much modern music, too loud, too mellow, etc. Nobody’s ever happy, it’s so exhausting it makes you want to go “Phewww!” Or should I say “Pewww!”

Then I remember someone complaining one time about the modern music at my old church, proclaiming, “The only music that God wants in his church is the electric organ. That’s the only real church music.”

To which I had the image in my head of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, lugging their electric organ to the New World. Hoping that someday electricity would be invented so they could plug it in and sing at church.

Which reminds me, I also remember seeing a sign outside of a small country church. It read: “The only Bible that God wrote was the Kings James Version.” But I digress, that's a topic for another time.

Anyhow, here is a clip of my favorite hymn. And to be honest, if I mentioned this song to my kids, they wouldn’t even know it. That got me thinking, we are one generation away from losing songs like this. This clip is probably my first exposure to this great song. Watch it today please, and enjoy.


Then tomorrow, watch a newer version if this same wonderful hymn. This one is performed by a winner of American Idol. What song has better words, particularly the final verse, and is sung better than this performer?:


And then on the third day, listen to the song again in this third version. This time with images which truly capture the meaning of the song’s words:


If you don't have a different perspective on life after three days, start over and do it again.

Take care, and have a great week.




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