Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Often my worship experiences at the big contemporary church I attend each Sunday leave me wanting to sing some small, deep, poetic songs. Thank God I have some. I've been collecting these songs lately. One of the purposes I've dreamt for this "church house" is for it to be the setting for a Sunday worship service - and here you see part of the reason for the name of the house. Part of the service (which I will have to talk about more later) will be singing some of these songs each week, a cappella, or acoustically accompanied.
Take a song like "I Am A Pilgrim":
"I am a pilgrim and a stranger,
Travelin' through this worrisome land;
But I've got a home in that yonder city;
And it's not, Good Lord it's not made by hand.
I've got a mother, a sister and a brother,
Who have all gone on before;
And I am determined to go and meet them,
Good Lord, on that other shore.
I'm going down to the river of Jordan,
Just to cleanse my weary soul.
If I could touch the hem of His garments,
Lord, I do believe it would make me whole."
Or, "Blooming Vale," based on Psalm 55:
"O, were I like a feathered dove,
And innocence had wings,
I’d fly away and make a long remove,
From all these restless things.
Let me to some wild desert go,
And find a peaceful home;
Where storms of malice never blow,
Temptations never come.
By morning light I’ll seek his face,
At noon repeat my cry;
The night shall hear me ask his grace,Nor will he long deny."
Here's a really well-known one that I often wonder why we never sing in church, "I'll Fly Away":
"Some bright morning when this life is o'er,
I'll fly away to that home on God's celestial shore.
When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away;
Like a bird from these prison walls, I'll fly away.
Oh how glad and happy when we meet,
No more cold iron shackles on my feet.
Just a few more weary days and then
I'll fly away to a land where joys will never end.”
Contrary to most of the songs my church plays, these songs are poetically crafted, saturated with biblical imagery, and open to the realities of life, death, heaven and hell while imbued with joy. These are very different from "praise songs" that we're used to. Why should all the songs we sing in church be praise songs? Some Sundays I don't feel like saying, "God, you're so good to me." Some Sundays I feel like Naomi and want to name myself "Bitter." The biblical Psalms ("Songs") also alternate between highest praise and abysmal despair. The songs we sing as a congregation could do this too, and thereby give us the opportunity to be real with God about what is going on in our lives.
I'm not a "chronological snob," by the way. The songs don't have to be old. They just have to be good. The best, in fact, great, perfect - because God is. These are just the songs I've discovered so far. I would love to discover a slew of contemporary songs that are equally imaginative, biblical, beautiful, and true. Anyone know some?
Music is very important to this house. As I wrote in my sketchbook one day, I want this house to be worthy of having great music played in it. That is, I want the design, the architecture, to be composed as carefully and expressively as the greatest music. When I play music in my current apartment, the music is a pearl cast before swine.