I grew up with hymns.
In fact, I would venture to say that I learned as much about my theology from them as I did from any other source. As well, I learned to play the piano (not for public consumption, thank you) out of the Baptist Hymnal—a 1956 edition, I might add. Hearing just a few notes I can quote verses and refrains from scores of hymns.
I’d pretty much take on anyone in a “Name that Tune” hymn-version contest.
So, I know what a friend we have in Jesus. I learned to trust and obey from an early age. I know that Jesus loves me and that he lives. Since Jesus came into my heart, I have blessed assurance that the Lord redeemed me just as I am. It is well with my soul.
You get my point.
But, there’s something else I need to share.
When I met the Queen
Know that I am an anglophile of sorts. My ancestors came from the British Isles many generations ago. In high school, I was a Rotary Exchange to New Zealand, which sealed my identity with most anything related to the UK.
I was in New Zealand in 1969, their bicentennial of discovery by Captain James Cook. While the native Maori population likely does not acknowledge that as much of a celebration as does the European population, it was an exciting time to be in New Zealand.
Part of the celebration was the royal visit by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, and their two eldest children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
To give you an idea of how “times” have changed, they did “walkabouts” at several locations during their visit. They simply strolled through the crowds. One was in Palmerston North. I was there.
I took these photographs. This is a younger version of the Queen of England and a much younger version of the next king. Such a joyous atmosphere. People bowed and curtsied. They applauded. All eyes were on them. I was thrilled and so excited that I could hardly hold my camera still (sorry for the fuzzy quality). Being in close proximity to royalty was an awesome experience.
Queen Elizabeth II had only been on the British throne for seventeen years in 1969. In June 2022, she celebrated her seventieth year. That’s an amazing and unparalleled accomplishment. Not only by birth and by title is she worthy of respect, but by perseverance, dignity, and longevity she earned the respect and adulation she receives today.
But, many Americans struggle with the idea of royalty.
When we meet the King
Our nation was founded (in part) on being free from unscrupulous monarchs. That may be why, at least partially, many evangelical traditions are more comfortable seeing Jesus as more of a friend and partner than a king and lord. Evangelical worship is often more informal and oriented toward pleasing the crowd than focused on being reverent and pleasing a king.
I find that I have gravitated over time to worship that is more liturgical and participative than spontaneous and spectator oriented. Although many churches have had great success reaching people with more of a concert atmosphere and event-driven orientation, I find a need to worship, not merely attend an event, as it’s more soul-enriching, cleansing, and powerful to me.
The hymns continue to serve me well.
As a child, I learned that we crown him with many crowns as we all hail the power of Jesus’ name. I know well that glorious is thy name, o Lord and that Jesus shall reign because a mighty fortress is our God. O worship the king!
Today, as I recall that experience in 1969 during the royal walkabout, I realize that while I was awestruck and amazed, I wasn’t even a subject of the British royalty. I was an American and owed no allegiance.
How much more, then, should I be awestruck and in wonder as subject to the King of kings and Lord of lords?
I stand amazed in the presence.