Sing to God (But Not THAT Song!)
Pastor Hy, our indefatigable 93 year old semi-retired associate pastor, is a major hoot. She makes no bones about her personal preferences, which I think is adorable. For one thing, she hates bagpipes, just hates them. For another, her very least favorite hymn is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It was penned by none other than Martin Luther himself, and as much as any tune could be called THE Lutheran anthem. An ELCA clergyperson giving it thumbs down is akin to a politician admitting that he or she detests “The Star Spangled Banner.” I tease Hy that I plan to have “Fortress” played at her funeral. On bagpipes. My punchline “And you can’t do anything about it” is always topped by her rejoinder, “Just wait and see!” Knowing Pastor Hy as I do, if anyone could pull off a surprise appearance at their own funeral, she’d be the one. So I don’t dare sneak that ditty into her Celebration of Life service.
When it comes to church music selections, I have my faves for sure—and also the ones that really make me cringe. Sometimes it’s the tune that sets my teeth on edge, more often it’s the lyrics. For me, simpler is better—No #1 on my Heavenly Hit Parade is the gorgeous, plaintive spiritual “Give Me Jesus.” Our hymnal has some doozies, including “Earth and All Stars” with the painful line “Classrooms and labs! Loud boiling test tubes! Sing to the Lord a new song!” I am definitely swimming against the tide of popular opinion, but “Borning Cry,” and “On Eagle’s Wings” (regularly trotted out for solemn occasions), have totally lost their appeal to me. Which means, of course, that when I die, someone (maybe Pastor Hy) will make sure that a soloist warbles both of these pieces at MY funeral.
We are a pretty traditional congregation when it comes to church music (our music director Ken claims we have “blended services” just because he sometimes chooses more modern pieces for the choir to sing, but I disagree). We have no Praise Band. We sing no Mercy Me or Casting Crowns, and I haven’t heard a drum set in worship here in a blue moon—it’s pretty much all organ, all the time. Now mind you, I don’t adore all (or even most) Contemporary Christian Music either. When the words of the endless chorus flash onto the obligatory big screens and everyone stands up, sways, raises both hands in the air and repeats the lame phrases over and over in some kind of Jesus-y trance, I’m outta there.
Given my druthers, I would probably prefer a blend of classical (Bach, etc.) and Gospel music at worship, which is what music director Sheridan tends to choose for Grace Wyndmoor. But I do love Christ’s Oreland, so I will remain in my pew on Sunday mornings, even when the “loud boiling test tubes” number comes up.
Sing on, my fellow Lutherans!! I’ll join you!! When the spirit moves me!!