Availability of songs does not mean that they are used in worship. Part 1 focused on the availability of songs and hymns. I think this is where worship leaders and pastors miss an opportunity to minister in a specific way to people. Do our song and hymn choices provide the fullness of musical expression, whether contemporary or traditional). That is, while our liturgical format brings along the congregation where everyone may be, the songs/hymns also have to explore the fullness of the congregational experience (i.e. the Psalms experiences).
This has implications for traditional and contemporary expressions, maybe in different ways or choices. For traditional songs, sometimes the lament comes through a combination of words and music, often in minor key. Consider this one, while not in a minor key, still brings forth the true hope in the midst of trial. Written by Paul Gerhardt, here is the first verse:
Commit thou all thy griefs
And ways into His hands,
To His sure truth and tender care,
Who heaven and earth commands.
“Lauxmann calls [this] ‘the most comforting of all the hymns that have resounded on Paulus Gerhardt’s golden lyre, sweeter to many souls than honey and the honey-comb.’ It soon spread over Germany. It was sung in 1743, when the foundation-stones were laid of the first Lutheran church in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], and again at the open ing service.”
In the realm of a perceived gap in use of contemporary music lamentis frequently the target. A friend (thanks, Kathy) shared this link with me to show that such music is indeed available. “Blessing” by Laura Story:
See her background on this song:
Is this usable for a service? Yes, indeed. Is this the only appropriate song or explanation for lament? No, but it does present another side of the Christian life that needs attention in both traditional and contemporary music — in practice. How many of us are there?
For the traditional music choices, sometimes the joy theme is limited to a particular style. Yet, even here the choices are available; are we using them? Consider the options for “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing” written in the 6th century. Verse 1:
At the Lamb’s high feast we sing
Praise to our victorious King,
Who hath washed us in the tide
Flowing from his pierced side;
Praise we him whose love divine
Gives his sacred blood for wine,
Gives his body for the feast,
Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest.
Now listen to three possible melodies:
Note that each has a unique place within hymnody and can be used appropriately.
For contemporary music, while there is much available on joy, I think some selectivity is necessary. Just because a song expresses joy, does not ensure that it is a doctrinally appropriate (this goes for contemporary and traditional selections). One example is “Center of My Heart” (http://larryholdermusic.org/center.html) In some ways this is an acceptable song, but notice who the primary pronouns refer to (“I, me”). And there is a problem with Law and Gospel distinctions relative to the Christian life.
Now to take another example, look at (and listen to) “King of Israel.”
(scroll down to see words and play music)
It expresses joy with a contemporary sound and contemporary lyrics. This song can fit within a Lutheran context easily.
This is by no means complete (nor intended to be). Rather, I hope that it gives us pause as we consider not only the availability of appropriate songs/hymns but also with discernment, using as wider a spectrum of music as possible.
And here is one delightful Orthodox Easter song that combines new and old.
There is one other factor for another post: sing-ability of song choices.