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In 2013, when the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) published a new hymnal, Glory to God: Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs, author Walter Brueggemann spoke on one occasion to launch the hymnal and another time at a celebration of the hymnal. A Glad Obedienceis a lengthened version of the material presented there.

Throughout his instructive, stimulating narrative, Brueggemann frequently points out that singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is a countercultural activity in light of our market-driven culture.

As Brueggemann explores several psalms to better understand why we sing them, he mines from each what we can learn about God, ourselves, and our relationship to God and our neighbor. Though Brueggemann articulates many reasons why we sing, one overriding answer persists: We sing to render our lives in all their rich complexity, in honesty, back to God.

According to Brueggemann, for the most part, singing congregations pay very little attention to the wording of hymns. That’s why he decided to include in his book an exposition of 15 hymns. His goal is to encourage readers to slow down and appreciate the words, metaphors, and deep meanings of hymns, hopefully resulting in a greater appreciation of the treasures of the Christian tradition. Brueggemann also hopes that church leaders—pastors, musicians, and teachers—will continue such expository work and share it with their congregations, thus enriching their singing experience. A Glad Obedience will prove to be a worthy read not only for church leaders but for all who long to have a more profound understanding of the songs we sing. (Westminster John Knox Press, 2019)

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