Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hymn Rant...

All right, I am irritated. Irritated with my church and churches in general. And no, I am not just going to complain here behind the church’s back , I'll send it to my pastor.

The first thing is quite probably just me, so I will only mention it in passing. I need more time during the worship service. I need more quiet time in church to pray silently, more time to get into a song, more time during the song to contemplate the words, more time to shift gears into the next song or prayer or the sermon. Hmm, and perhaps it would help if the music and the sermon sort of went in the same direction so I didn’t have to shift gears so much. Can’t we slow down? Church seems to pass too quickly for me; I am not finished contemplating the previous thing while the next thing is beginning. But as I said, this is probably just me; I have been told that I think more than the average person and I have been accused of overanalyzing. However, I still think that the average American has way too short of an attention span.

Now, to the actual subject of my irritation. Why is it that we can only sing 2-3 verses of a hymn? Sometimes I feel like we are just singing the minimum so we can check it off our list of things to do during the service. I love hymns (I also love contemporary music). I agree with those who lament the passing of hymns, because they do contain enormous amounts of doctrine, and we can learn things faster when they are set to music. (I still sing the books of the Bible song when I am looking for a particular book, and I’m looking for a multiplication song cd for my 4th grader). So there is all this great doctrine in our hymns, but we are missing half of it by only singing a couple of verses! Many of these hymns have a progression, a sort of story, from one verse to the next, and we are missing the middle of the story!

For example, let’s look at "Have Thine Own Way, Lord!" which we sang this morning. Verse 1 says basically: God, You are the Potter, I am the clay, make me like You want me to be, I am yielded. Verse 2 (which we skipped) says: search me and look for my flaws, wash me while I bow humbly. Verse 3 (which we also skipped) says: I am wounded and weary, God You have the power, heal me. And Verse 4 says: Control me and fill me with Your spirit so others will see Christ in me. In my opinion the middle 2 verses where God searches our hearts and washes our sin, and where we are hurt and He heals us, are pretty important concepts for us to remember. Yes He made us and lives in us, but those are more obscure, they sort of happen in the past and in the future. What I can see today is my sin and my hurt.

OK, maybe our culture cannot manage to sing 4 verses of a song. Isn’t there some way to teach our congregation to appreciate our songs? Maybe we just don’t care enough, we want to go home and eat lunch. So, are we going to build our worship service around not making people uncomfortable? I suppose I should be happy they are at least getting half of it. And I guess if their interest gets piqued they might read the rest of the hymn (while they miss the next part of the service because the service is marching onward without them if they stop to think…).
I suppose I should be more patient and tolerant. I suppose I want or expect too much. I suppose I want to push people too much, want them to take it as seriously as I do, want the worship service to mean something to them. Maybe I want them to grow up faster. Maybe it’s my own pride and arrogance coming out.

Oh God, let our worship be about You; it’s not about me. Forgive my pride and arrogance, and make my worship, and my church's worship, acceptable to You.
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