Using Obscure Songs

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At our church, we are currently in the midst of a long sermon series on Genesis. We’re covering the entire book, so it’s taking, well, a while. I’ve always liked covering a book of the Bible chapter by chapter because one discovers obscure passages. We’re only about twenty chapters in, and already I’ve heard some things for the first time or in a completely new way. For example, a few weeks ago we went through the second part of Genesis 19. This is the story of how each of Lot’s daughters was able to have a son. Now, let me tell you, this is not a pleasant story. In fact, it’s repulsive. I suspect most of us were hoping our children didn’t fully grasp the plot. And wishing mental pictures were as easy to delete as digital ones. But, also, we were wondering why God wants us to know about Lot’s daughters and their sons. The answer seems to be right there in the passage. The sons of Lot’s daughters became the patriarchs of Moab and Ammon, wherefrom came two notable women, Ruth (a Moabite) and Naamah (an Ammonite), in the genealogy of the Messiah. Genesis 19, then, is another example of how God’s plan is way bigger than any of us can ever imagine, and how he turns our sin into his providence.

This got me thinking. There are a lot of obscure songs out there; a lot of songs that most of us rarely use anymore. Certainly, some of them deserve to be neglected. Others, though, might serve to give us that little insight that is missing elsewhere in our repertoire.

This is an area in which hymns tend to shine over modern praise songs. Lots of hymns focus on a narrow theological idea, or highlight a specific aspect of the Christian life. In newer songs, there are also some references to things we don’t sing about very much. For example, “As Moses Raised the Serpent Up” is one of the few songs to incorporate John 3:14, not just the slightly more famous sixteenth verse of that chapter (yes, as a life-long CRC member, you probably are familiar with this song; but you must remember not everyone is so blessed). “O Day of Rest and Gladness” tells of the great gift that God gave us in the Sabbath (this song has not been in a CRC hymnal since 1987). Both of these songs are set to great tunes, too.

Are there any not-so-well-known songs that you’ve used recently?

Making room in our repertoire for good songs that aren’t widely used can be an effective way to add to the theological breadth and musical diversity of our worship canon. I encourage you to look for songs that speak to a topic or refer to a Biblical truth that might be otherwise missing in your worship music.

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This last summer we did a sermon series on the Psalms, and we insisted on singing the matching Psalm from the Blue Psalter. 

It was enlightening how many of our old timers said "we've been singing in this church for 60-80 years, and we've never sung that before". It was also joyful to be able to sing wonderful words to tunes that were new for many of us.

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Samuel Sutter

www.SutterSaga.com