Thursday, October 15, 2015

The vagaries of worship words. . .

A reader sent me a hymn text and asked me what I thought -- always a dangerous request!!  The hymn is one of many of its kind, recently published by a Roman Catholic publishing group (OCP).  I must admit that I don't think much of this kind of modern hymn -- the vagaries of its text, the focus on imagery with little direct statement of doctrine or truth, and the sound of a ballad. 

The sad truth is that too many of our hymns see Christ and the Spirit in just about everything but the explicit presence of Christ where He has promised to be -- the Word and the Sacraments.  I love a good image well painted in words but when the image bypasses or ignores the explicit sign that conveys what it signs (means of grace), the image is not worth a whole lot.

For example, is there any distinction or difference between the Spirit whose is wedded to the Word and the Spirit who rushes like wind through creation?  How exactly do we bear Christ and, if we do in some way bear Christ, how do we distinguish between what we bear and what He bore for us and for our salvation? What wisdom are we to spread through the earth -- could it be the Gospel or is it instead some sort of generic spiritualism?  Who could tell?  And what exactly are we singing when we say Gather the nations and form us in Christ. Come, be the source and bread of life/source and blood of life/heartbeat of life/presence in our lives?

There is too much attention to the aesthetics of worship and worship as a phenomenon and too little attention to the worship that is God's domain, wherein He speaks to us His life-giving voice, washes us clean with His life-giving water, and feeds us with His life-giving flesh and blood.  So, to make the answer short and sweet, I am not so much in favor of hymns/songs like this and especially not by any church that insists it is a sacramental community in which Christ comes to us as He has promised where He has placed Himself (Word and Sacrament).  We can and must do better than this.

1 comment:

Kirk Skeptic said...

This is fundamentally a problem of and with "creative types" who view music as trumping theology. After all, God gave us 150 perfect hymns and even some other canticles, and the church (save for some secions fo the Reformed) have shelved them in favor of egotonic ditties to their and our loss. Luther referred to the Psalms as "the Bible in miniature" and sought much instruction and solace in them; maybe we should too.