Lately I've been enjoying poking fun at hymns. (Don't worry, the only reason I'm not poking fun at modern songs is because they can be so dire that I can't even laugh at them.)
A favourite of mine (and my Dad's) is one verse of "O God of matchless grace". It starts:
'Tis meet that Thy delight
Should centre in Thy Son...
Once you've got past the weird language - that's right! Well done, God! It's proper that you like your Son. You can rest assured that we approve.
One of my Mum's favourites was this:
I have heard of showers of blessings
Thou art scattering full and free
Showers the thirsty land refreshing
Let some droppings fall on me
Self-explanatory, I think.
She also said that when she was a kid she couldn't stand singing "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise" - she couldn't help imagining a bunch of disembodied tongues singing by themselves.
I hate this particular one:
God holds the key of all unknown,
And I am glad;
If other hands should hold the key,
Or if He trusted it to me,
I might be sad (I might be sad).
That's right - God, you hold on to this key (whatever it is), because if you don't, (o horrors!) I might be sad. And you wouldn't like that.
Then there's the really old-timer songs, which my Dad recently found in his old boxes of stuff. The songs where everyone's happy.
On Monday I am happy
On Tuesday full of joy
Wednesday has a faith
The devil can't destroy.
On Thursday, and Friday
I'm walking in the light
Saturday's a victory
And Sunday a delight
Ain't that right, folks? Doesn't that reflect the Christian walk to a T?
I am a big fan of hymns, especially as they are being chucked out in favour of repetitive and unpoetic songs that will be out of fashion next year, except for a few token old songs that no one can possibly object to and which can be fiddled with and put in a modern format. But I can't agree with the purists who say that modern songs lack depth, and all old songs can give that to us.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think it helps anyone who's struggling or being attacked or dying or loves someone who's dying to have to stand in church on a Sunday and sing a song about how everything's a breeze when God is in our lives.
These are two verses of "Trust and Obey", which we coincidentally had to sing at church soon after my Mum died:
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise,
not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear,
not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
I get it. I get that the point behind the song is that things are better when God is in our lives. I could see that at the time. But it didn't help to have such drivel pushed down my throat, without any recognition that what I was going through was difficult. I do not agree that this sort of song has depth.
What I ask for is thought going into the songs we are asked to sing. Both old and new, Christian songs should be songs that we can sing honestly. We tend to quote the psalms a lot in our music - but do we quote those unhappy psalms (quite a lot of them) which make it clear that life is not heaven? Even with God in it?
The really good hymns which in my opinion no modern song has yet come close to beating are those which reflect a cry from the human heart for God. A cry that loses none of its power over time. Such as this:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in thee
Let the water and the blood
From thy wounded side which flowed
Be for sin the double cure
Save from wrath and make me pure
Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill thy law's demands
Could my zeal no respite know
Could my tears forever flow
All for sin could not atone
Thou must save and thou alone
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to the cross I cling
Naked, come to Thee for dress
Helpless, look to Thee for grace
Foul, I to the fountain fly
Wash me, Savior, or I die
While I draw this fleeting breath
When mine eyes shall close in death
When I soar to worlds unknown
See Thee on Thy judgment throne
Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee.