“O Sing To The Lord” | Blog #3

“O Sing To The Lord” | Blog #3

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“O sing to the LORD a new song;

      sing to the LORD all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless [God’s] name;

      tell of [God’s] salvation from day to day.” (Ps. 96:1-2)

I began my morning yesterday with the great “new song” psalm and it traveled with me as a companion throughout the day. Every so often I would find myself whistling and chuckled at how the imperative to “sing a new song” was working subconsciously. Of course, many of the songs I was whistling weren’t new or new to me, but they were once new! During this Lent I was reflecting on the gift of new hymns as we went back to using hymnals for the first time since the pandemic. I grew up using what we called “The Old Red Hymnbook” and there are some classics I learned (and knew the page numbers for) that were dropped when “The New Blue Hymnal” came into the pews in the mid-‘80’s. My home church made the move to upgrade the hymnal in the late ‘70’s, so I was introduced to a host of “new songs” through Eric Routley’s RCA hymnal, Rejoice in the Lord, before meeting the new friends in the Blue Hymnal at Sem. At the seminary chapel we actually had both in the pew and so many of the new hymns – Lift High the Cross, Here am I, multiple settings of Psalm 23 and other psalms, plus My Song is Love Unknown – became part of the standard canon. I really can’t imagine going through Lent without singing My Song is Love Unknown (with the opening lyric “my savior’s love to me, love to the loveless shown that thy might lovely be”). So I am grateful for “new songs” that aren’t (by now) so new but have become crucial to “bless[ing] God’s name” for me.

Yesterday was the first weather that was less than perfect – overcast, a little rainy, and cold. But we packed for all weather and were out in it. We spent the morning sailing up the Danube from Budapest to Bratislava and encountered the first – and largest – lock. It lifted the ship the 60m/53ft in a matter of minutes. What an engineering marvel! So fun to see the width of the river at the point and to learn the lock/dam was part of a hydro-electric plant.

Bratislava is at the intersection with both Austria (boarder 2 mi) and Hungary (boarder 3 mi) and is a beautiful city that the Russians abused during the Communist era, but which is coming back. One of the fun memories is how many Slovak (and Czech, Bohemian, Hungarian, Moravian, and Serbian) kids I grew up with. I heard from both Mark Tarby and Lori Fegely Hill yesterday encouraging me to partake in Slovak delicacies. Amy and I took a break at a wonderful old coffee house, and I had a traditional cake filled with poppy seed; it reminded me of the poppy-seed Christmas cookies popular with Slovak families back in Bethlehem. The highlight of the trip was our local guide who told of crossing over into Austria when the boarder first opened. Her folks warned against it, having remembered the brutal way the Soviets crushed the “Czech Spring” back in ’68, but Jana and her HS girlfriends couldn’t resist. The difference between the unsmiling, gruff and grumpy Czechoslovakian guards and the warm, smiling welcome from the Austrians was so powerful for her and her friends, they spent the afternoon crossing and recrossing the boarder and getting their paperwork stamped and re-stamped. Such a wonderful story. It sounded like the joyful retelling of the Exodus at Seder meals I’ve attended.

Enjoyed a late (and long!) dinner with our new friends, Chris and Debby, and are grateful for new, interesting traveling companions. Today dawns in Vienna, a city I have long wanted to explore. It will be a full day with sightseeing, museum visiting, Royal Lippizaner horse viewing, and finished off with Mozart/Strauss concert listening. Which reminds me, both of their music was once new and revolutionary. Thank God for new (and old) songs!