Yesterday I mentioned that during his time at Liberty University Kevin Roose joined the choir of Thomas Road church in order to understand Jerry Falwell and his theology. He often wrote of the novelty and uplifting nature of those services he attended. However, he also noted a certain level of ambivalence about the experience:
"...there's almost too much stimulation. The stage lights, the one hundred-decibel praise songs, the bright purple choir robes, the tempestuous bellowing of Dr. Falwell - it's an hour-long assult on the senses...It's Church Lite - entertaining but unsubstantial...And once the novelty wears off, once the music becomes familiar and the motions of praise become pro forma and mechanized, you start to relaize that all the technological glitz and material extravagance doesn't necessarily add up to a spiritual experience."
This excerpt points out, as I've often argued, that much contemporary church music lacks the depth of meaning and purpose that can be found in our best hymns. Too much Christian rock is like a musical sugar rush - a simple lyric repeated over and over that can get stuck in the listener's mind, but ultimately conveys little meaning.
Contrast that with some lines from the ELW. The well-known hymn "Holy God, We Praise Your Name" (ELW 414) gives an introduction the doctrine of the trinity:
Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, three we name you,
Though in essence only one;
Undivided God we claim you
And, adoring, bend the knee
While we own the mystery.
Many Lutheran hymns also quote or paraphrase key passages of scripture. For instance, the great Easter hymn "Christ the Lord is Risen Today!" (ELW 373) refers to 1 Corinthians 15:55 in its fourth verse:
Lives again our glorious king!
Where, O death, is now your sting?
Once he died our souls to save;
Where your victory, O grave?
These texts and tunes are both simple and profound, easily learnable but worthy of reflection. They can enliven our spirit during the service, and also sustain our faith for a lifetime.