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Worship Is a Sermon, Part 2

05/09/2011

Hey, look! Two relevant posts today to yesterday’s blog post.

First, from John’s Corner of the World – “Music Today…”

More and more, I find myself getting “fed up” with the so-called “worship” songs we are asked to sing at church. Apparently, I’m not alone. At least not in my extended family. I try to remain silent about my own thoughts and feelings. But, it seems, almost every Sunday someone says something about the music . . . how this, that, or the next thing bugs them.

Yesterday was no different.

Except that Sarita brought our attention to a short article in The Week’s “Health & Science” section. It matched something someone had just noted: How worship songs (“hymns”), in general, used to be relatively theologically deep and focused on God. Indeed, I remember how I used to comment about the almost third-person nature of so much of the music: not focused on “You”–“Oh, LORD, You . . .,” but, rather, “He,” “The Lord, He . . .” –“Lifted up was He to die . . .,” etc.

When our family shifted over to a more charismatic/pentecostal church, the music became a bit more, if I may suggest it here, “interpersonal”: “Lord, You are . . .,” “I love You, Lord . . .,” etc.

But at this point, strangely, the focus has shifted more and more, it seems, away from God and toward the members of the congregation, indeed, not to “us,” even, but to “me,” “my” and “I.”

Yup. Spiritual narcissism.

And to offer a good friendly reminder with a heaping load of wisdom, the Resurgence’s When Church Is a Mistress.

It’s become hip to rip on the church. People like to blame their problems on “the church.”

You can hear these criticisms in popular culture. Take, for instance, Arcade Fire’s song “Intervention”:


Working for the Church while your family dies
You take what they give you and you keep it inside
Every spark of friendship & love will die without a home
Hear the solider groan, “We’ll go at it alone”

The song paints the church as a militant institution, driven by discipline and an over-bearing work ethic. The central character sacrifices his family on the altar of “church” or ministry. This is often true. Churches sometimes have more in common with Wall Street than they do Scripture. They enforce a merciless work ethic in the name of “mercy” or “gospel” ministry. All work no play.

I don’t know if I’d consider it being “hip”. Perhaps being honest would be another word. It’s a fruit of the modernity that crept into the church. No longer is it “this is truth”, as future generations were led to accept. Instead it’s “this is a truth, an opinion, a view, potentially equalling as valid as any other view, including the ‘true’ view someone created for us less than 100 years ago.” Was it hip for many to admit they had been racists? Or for many Germans to admit they had been murderers? I wouldn’t call that hip.

And don’t forget…the Protestant Reformation, with all these great “truths” that you uphold, was also birthed out of criticizing the church. Was that “hip”?

By the way, here is the song I consider the best worship song to have been written in the last decade or so. Yeah, you will find first person pronouns used from time to time, but consistently, the focus is on “THE MAGNIFICENT”.

Shame that the church needs rock stars to remind them who it is all about.

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