Monday, December 16, 2013
Why must it be easy?
Why must hymns be easy in order for us to sing them? Funny, though, we would not even think of attending the symphony if they played only easy music. We would not pay any money for art the painter or sculptor had not labored to complete. We would pay for somebody to fix our cars or diagnose our ills or fill our prescriptions if the tasks were easy. Yet I believe most of us agree that the work of great composers is a noble gift to our culture and life, the work of great artists has enriched our lives beyond measure, and a good mechanic, physician, and medicine are worth the extra money we pay them.
Why does it glorify God more if the hymns are easy to sing? Indeed, is there not something to be said for the effort of learning them and for the sacrifice made to sing difficult hymns? But of course we do not want to do that very thing -- labor to learn them and sacrifice our own desire to sing them. We do not only want easy worship to accompany an easy religion, we want an easy life that requires little of us for success and happiness.
In contrast to this, we see the labor of the Lord, the fruit of His sacrificial suffering and death, and the precious nature of this holy gift -- bestowed upon us freely but never cheap or easy. As Luther reminds us in the explanation of the second article of the Creed, not with silver or gold but with His holy and precious body and blood... What is freely given to us should never be thought of as free -- it is as costly as the humiliation of Christ's incarnation and life and as precious as the sacrifice of His life into our death.
The truth is we have gotten lazy. We don't want to work at things and we don't want to do anything we don't feel like doing. An acolyte was not singing one Sunday and so I quizzed the acolyte about it. I didn't like the hymn was the response. Strangely, we do not see the conflict between expecting God to bestow His best and our desire to give Him what comes cheap and easy to us.
I am counter-cultural. I think we ought to sweat it out a bit. The work of the poet to create a hymn that faithfully sings the faith is no easy task. The least we can do is work as hard as the composer and author to give voice to that hymn. God deserves nothing less. What does it say about us when we consider ourselves worth the extra effort and sacrifice but are unwilling to expend any effort to sing or sing well the noble song of the poet who puts to meter and rhyme the faith we believe, confess, and teach?