Friday, July 15, 2011
what's in a song
From Gary Parrett's 9.5 Theses on Worship, thesis 5; Faithful response to God involves more than praise—we need a much broader range of songs available for congregations.
The Psalter—Israel's prayer book and hymnal—provides a good model for us. In the Psalms, we find that the songs of praise take their place alongside songs and prayers of lament, confession, adoration, complaint, spiritual warfare, thanksgiving, and more.
A couple years ago, I felt compelled to compose a hymn based on Psalm 88, which is generally acknowledged as the darkest of all the psalms. It begins in confusion and ends, it seems, in utter frustration. Searching through the Scripture indices of the hymnals in my office, I could not find a single hymn based on this psalm. Yet is it not a God-inspired prayer for people of God who find themselves in a dark season of life? Do we not ask such people to stand alongside us in our congregational worship and join us in singing the triumphant songs of praise? Are we unwilling to join them in crying out to God for mercy? In our churches, sadly, it often does not go both ways—we rejoice with those who rejoice, but seldom do we weep with those who weep.
The other side of this coin, of course, is that what God has revealed about himself is not always what we would like to acknowledge. Do our songs address the full range of his attributes and actions, or only those that we delight in? We sing often of his love and kindness. But what of his wrath, his jealousy, his inscrutability—do we sing honestly of these things? Surely we should.