The Faithful Way to Sing to God? Mine.

Photo by glamhag on Flickr

On more than one occasion I have heard praise music called “7/11 music,” the same seven words sung eleven times. Because I tend to run in mainline church circles, this commentary is often served with a hearty serving of condescension and a generous side of superiority. After all, all that silly “praise” music is theologically shallow and in no way brings glory to God.

While the battles about worship and music are traditionally focused on the use of organs, guitars, hymns and drum sets, I have heard this same thing from those whom I would say have very creative music and worship expressions. So what it really comes down to is that many of us believe that the only true way to worship God is the way we do.

Now do not get me wrong, when I hear praise music that has a “Jesus is my boyfriend” vibe or organ music that seems better fit for a carnival, my skin crawls and my soul is not moved. And yet for some, that is where they meet God. Personally, I love a little bit of everything as I worship. Powerful organ music, deft guitarists, rocking bands, swaying choirs and the singing of Taize (And yes, Taize is basically the same seven words sung eleven times, *cough* *cough*) all can stir my soul. This musical buffet is not for everyone and not every community can pull it off, but this is how I meet God where I worship and I am grateful.

One of the reasons that people are so passionate about music is that this is where and how we often connect to the holy. To mess with or critique that choice is to mess with and critique the very nature of our relationship with God. Sometimes this may be needed and appropriate, but most often it only creates unwarranted conflict, cultural entrenchment and calcification of the Spirit. Whether it’s music or any other parts of our worship lives, the sooner that we embrace a reality that one music style is not more faithful than another, the sooner we will liberate our minds and hearts to experience God in new ways.

So when we so easily mock the ways in which others sing praise to God, we are buying into a culture of self-centered bullying, exclusion and judgement that have no place in the church. If anything, even in the face of theological differences, we should be finding ways to model to the world ways of dealing with difference that does not always lead to disembodiment of the faithful, but to the building up of the Body of Christ . . . and in achieving this, maybe we will truly be worshipping God.

Pass it on.

On this September 11th – a Hymn and a Prayer

Photo by ejpphoto on Flickr

It is hard to believe that is has been 11 years since that surreal morning when the world’s attention was focused on the attack on the United States. Watching the looping images of planes flying into the World Trade Center, the attempts at trying to understand what was happening and the subsequent turmoil that as arguably altered the very nature of politics in the United States, 9/11 must be remembered with care and grace as we continued to deal with the aftermath.

We will never get beyond the politics and rhetoric of our collective 9/11 responses, but there is a time to pause, to remember and to grieve. As one who has been impacted by the tragic death of a family member, the implications on ones life and spirit never go away. Pain may ease, memories wane and emotions temper, but the loss is constant.  With this in mind, I offer up two resources that touched me this morning.

The first is a hymn from hymn writer, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette:

O God, Our Words Cannot Express
ST. ANNE (8.6.8.6) (Our God, Our Help in Ages Past)

O God, our words cannot express
The pain we feel this day.
Enraged, uncertain, we confess
Our need to bow and pray.

We grieve for all who lost their lives…
And for each injured one.
We pray for children, husbands, wives
Whose grief has just begun.

O Lord, we’re called to offer prayer
For all our leaders, too.
May they, amid such great despair,
Be wise in all they do.

We trust your mercy and your grace;
In you we will not fear!
May peace and justice now embrace!
Be with your people here!

Carolyn has published two hymn collections, Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today’s Worship. You can find hymn notes as well as her other work on her website, www.carolynshymns.com. You can also like her on Facebook.

There are also many meaningful prayers out there for folks to use in worship or for personal devotion. My own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has 9/11 Worship and Liturgy resources to download as does the National Council of Churches. Here is a prayer offered as part of a 10th anniversary liturgy of remembrance written by Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Tenafly, N.J and the Rev. Jon Brown, a Presbyterian minister and Pastor of the Old Bergen Church, Jersey City, N.J.

Unison Prayer

God of all creation, our hearts are broken over the destruction and loss we remember this day. And we acknowledge, O Lord, that on that day of human carnage yours was the first heart to break.

In our remembering, may we stand with those who mourn and those who cannot stop mourning. Through remembering, may we find new comfort in your care. In our remembering may we be drawn to a new hope for the whole world, and may we gain for ourselves a measure of your peace.

You who can turn the shadow of night into the bright promise of a new day, empower us to shape a world marked by ways of life that lead to justice and peace for all peoples. Fashion in us a people who are more ready to grow in understanding than eager to judge those who are different from us. Form us as a people determined to heal wounds rather than inflict them.

We pray at last that you would cultivate such love in us that we may reach out in compassion to all those who are still wounded by the events of that day; and in seeking to heal others, may we experience a love that makes us whole.

This we pray in the strong name of Jesus our Christ. Amen

Please feel free to share other resources, prayers and reflections this day. Again, there is always space for the politics and debate, but on this day, let us simply pause, remember and grieve.


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