Readers of this blog probably have noticed that I bemoan the dwindling use of the good old hymns in our church services. Recently I posted the lyrics of the classic entitled "The Church's One Foundation". I might also think of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today", "He Leadeth Me", "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" or "It is Finished".
In some sanctuaries the old hymnals are found in the pews as a testimonial to our heritage, but rarely picked up. My goodness, these songs have five or six or more verses. Much too long for the attention span of the average parishioner...and to stand while singing? Hardly.
Instead we resort to the overhead screen, bright colour and selections with no more than three verses. These songs do not teach. They fail to name the name Jesus. Under the guise of worship they often state the obvious: 1."You are Lord" 2. "I give you my all" 3. "You are welcome in this place" 4. "Take us to a higher place".
To many the lyrics are unfamiliar and without order. Less rhyme. No recognizable chorus. Anyone over forty-five years old despairs of getting into the selection. No matter, the Praise Team are professional and loud and the whole thing becomes a performance rather than a participation.
One cannot hear oneself sing; neither the people around him, and thus the communal aspect of the worship is diminished. And the sanctuary has been darkened down for the overhead screen. No looking at your Bibles during the "segment". No observing your neighbours in the act of worship. No giving of a smile or a friendly wink to anyone nearby.
Then there is the matter of "soaking" music in some churches. Simple, reverent choruses repeated over and over and over. Eventually only the Praise Team have the stamina. The general body of worshipers appear to have gotten themselves into the eyes closed, hands folded to the lips, seemingly ecstatic phase. Meditating on the Father's love, or some such thing. At a place like Toronto Airport Church they have the "liberty" to lie down on the floor and go to sleep.
We don't need anything like this stultifying our times together, regardless of the talent up front! We need to take the effort to stand together with enthusiasm and proclaim in music the pillars of our faith, hope and overcoming. We are not consumers in all of this. We are givers...of thanks, of adoration, of respectful recitation of the great old truths most worthy of being remembered. Remembered to each other and to the next generation.
The plague of dwindling literacy is also in this. The same can be said about sermons which dare not use more than one or two Bible verses as a foundation before Pastor goes into his journey of personal comment, ethics or anecdote. Pastors, give them bread! Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts!
Homer Simpson in that irreverent, long-running TV series comments to a friend on Gospel music: "Just take your average love song and throw in the name Lord or Jesus". Evidently Homer and I have been to some of the same services.