Thursday, May 27, 2004

Got that spiritual feeling

Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord!
Be all Thy graces now outpoured
On each believer’s mind and heart;
Thy fervent love to them impart.
Lord, by the brightness of Thy light
Thou in the faith dost men unite
Of every land and every tongue;
This to Thy praise, O Lord, our God, be sung.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thou holy Light, Guide divine,
Oh, cause the Word of Life to shine!
Teach us to know our God aright
And call Him Father with delight.
From every error keep us free;
Let none but Christ our Master be
That we in living faith abide,
In Him, our Lord, with all our might confide.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thou holy Fire, Comfort true,
Grant us the will Thy work to do
And in Thy service to abide;
Let trials turn us not aside.
Lord, by Thy power prepare each heart
And to our weakness strength impart
That bravely here we may contend,
Through life and death to Thee, our Lord, ascend.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

In the popular singing of many of our churches, it is assumed that spiritual/spirit-filled singing is the kind that taps into the emotions, that ends up with at least some movement of the body, head tipped back, and tingles down the spine somewhere near the 3rd time through the chorus, especially if it's a Hollywood chorus.

I admit I have had this same tingle, many times, singing camp songs and other praise songs in worship.

But this coming weekend, when I preach the Easter Vigil sermon, I'm praying for the words to put the capitol S back in Spirit-ual, and so talk about the song of the church that actually does in the congregation that which we teach is the work of the Holy Spirit.

First of all, some spiritual songs should not be easy to sing. They should break, and then re-make, the entire congregation around the song being sung. Not all songs need do this. Certainly simplicity and repetition are also valuable traditions of song. But songs like the one quoted above, should be a valued part of our tradition. We should come to worship expecting to sing something challenging, something hard, something that comes out beautiful only after the song itself has re-worked us and sung us into the song.

Second, Holy Spirit songs should do doctrine, and they should use the language of the church over time. They should emphasize the work of God, not the situation of the people. They are to be true prayer, not simply trite statements about what we feel or what is going on right there in the place of worship. "Here in this place" is a bad phrase to use in a hymn. Better say, "Come, Holy Spirit".

Songs should prepare us for the battle. Although I am not opposed to singing some praise choruses as part of worship, I see them as more like sniffing a good leg of lamb, as opposed to biting in to the meat. And we have so pacified the Holy Spirit that our spiritual singing now tastes like weak broth. If we preach the Holy Spirit as the tough guy of the Trinity, the Advocate, then maybe our singing will get some meat on its bones.


No comments:

Post a Comment