The need to get it right

10/28/2005

"0 sing unto the Lord a new song."

                          (Psalms 98:1)

 

By BISHOP ROBERT E. HAYES JR.

When the Psalmist declared that we should sing a new song to the Lord, I don't think he had in mind taking the old songs and turning them into something no one knew. Have you ever given much thought to how we garble and confuse the titles and words of the great hymns of our faith? I remember how my peers and I would mouth the words of songs as children, only to find out later as young adults that what we were singing was totally unrelated to what was written.

Well, I've thought a lot about the words in songs, and today I want to lighten things up in this column, to give us a chance to laugh out loud.

That's exactly what one mother did-she laughed out loud-when her young daughter got home from Sunday school and informed the woman that she had learned a new song. When asked what the song was about, the child said it was about a bear, a cross-eyed bear named Gladly. The mother thought and thought about that-and realized her precious little angel was talking about the line in the hymn "Gladly, the Cross I'd Bear."

Then there is the story of the father who thought he would check out his children's knowledge of the Christmas story.

He asked, "Who's the baby in the manger?"

His 4-year-old daughter answered, "Wayne!"

"Wayne?" he questioned. "Where did you come up with that name?"

"Oh, daddy," said the girl, impatiently, "didn't you ever listen to us sing 'A Wayne in a Manger'?"

Perhaps even more amusing are the mixed-up titles drawn from old, traditional hymns: from "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me" to "Jesus, Save Your Pie for Me." Or, instead of "Lead On, O King Eternal," that title became "Lead On, O Kinky Turtle." And we could never leave out "O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum," which we all know was "Atomic Bomb, Atomic Bomb."

Wait. There's more...

If you think we do an injustice to our hymns, then you should look at how we massacre our Biblical teachings.

For example, what did the three wise men bring for the Christ child? One young scholar answered, "Gold, Frankenstein, and mermaids."

Another child asked this for clarification: "Was Christ's mother the Virgin Mary of the King James Virgin?"

Without a doubt, the Lord's Prayer has suffered the most.

Do you remember any of these sentences from days gone by: "Our Father, who are in heaven, how'd you know my name? Give us this day our daily breath, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who press trash upon us. Lead us not into Penn Station, but deliver us from weevils. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen and FM."

Let's not leave out a child's version of one of the Ten Commandments: "Humor thy father and mother." That's something we all did when we really did something bad.

And, we can't dismiss the artistic Sunday school student who drew a picture of an animal and colored it green, red, and purple.

"What's that?" asked the teacher.

"Why, it's Joseph's goat of many colors," came the reply.

And, didn't we adults once all think that the people who stood in the back of the church, passing out the programs, and who walked up and down the aisles, making sure we didn't talk in church, were called hushers for a reason.

What's the point?

These comments on the inaccuracy of our interpretations of religious hymns and Biblical teachings are both amusing and revealing.

I'm not overly concerned about the times our children garble the titles and words, for we are all children at one time, and that's a part of growing up.

What I am concerned about-even frightened about-is our reluctance to even introduce children to what we were taught, including the terms we mispronounced as kids.

In many places, we don't take our children (much less ourselves) to Sunday school anymore. We don't encourage them to sing the songs of our faith, nor do we allow much of our religious music to be played outside of church settings.

Small wonder that many of our children don't know the words to the hymns or the stories in the Bible. They have never seen them.

Some years ago, in the United Methodist publication Circuit Rider, an article stated: "The children of today are the church of today and tomorrow. We can expect that if they are excluded from the liturgy each Sunday as children, they will absent themselves and their children from worship as adults."

One of the most exciting recent approaches to learning that I've observed offered for our children in the areas of Sunday school and worship has been Rotation Sunday School. This method gets kids excited and involved, and if you haven't discovered it yet, make some calls and find out more.

As I travel throughout the conference, worshipping in all types of settings, I am encouraged when I see quality time dedicated to our children and youth. I get excited when I see them participating in the programs and ministries of our churches.

Indeed, they are our future, and as long as we do our best to shape and mold them in an environment of love, care and nurturing, it won't matter how the words come out.

The most important thing will be how the children turn out.

As I close, I must tell the story of the 5-year-old who could never say Reverend. It always came out Never-end.

Come to think about it, I have heard some sermons and written some articles that did the same.


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