24 March 2013

some thoughts around those words in that song

I went to bed last night hot under the collar and sweaty under the scarf (it was a cold day) about comments and theological discussion over the phrase ‘the wrath of God was satisfied’ from the song ‘In Christ alone’.

I am not a theologian, primarily a pianist who has led worship in some form or another for over 20 years. Worship leaders are well accustomed to frequently more snarky than complimentary comments winging in their direction. Here are just a few of the downers from the years, direct and indirect:

·         a song was played too high, too low, too slow, too fast (surprisingly often by people who have no little or no musical ability)
·         parts of songs were repeated too many times or not enough, there were too many songs in one go, too much of a hymn/prayer sandwich
·         there are too many modern songs not enough hymns, hymns are too archaic in their language and no-one understands them these days
·         the wrong tune was used (not the one I like)
·         how a different song would have been ‘more annointed’
·         you are introducing new songs too fast
·         we sing this song too much, we don’t sing this one enough

I could go on.  

Equally too I have dished out some of the above criticisms when I have been in a congregation and often played them out either in my mind or around the family dinner table. (We have laughed until our sides ached and cried over the years. People in churches you probably have no idea how much ammunition you have provided us with over the years and we have been eternally grateful for your unwitting co-operation!) 

Sometimes negative critique will arise when it’s been a case of enduring a poor instrumentalist hashing their way through something never ending.  Fair do’s on that one.

If I’ve gone to church in a bullish or depressed mood and the music hasn’t done its job of lifting me out of the pit as I feel it should, it is as though the music or God really owes me something on this. Actually He doesn’t. Much in the same way, I am not obliged to play at a certain speed, nor do I think the words of a song are absolutely all there just to be pleasing to someone.

I was delighted to see that ‘In Christ alone’ was included in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s enthronement service. As for ‘the wrath of God was satisfied’ discussions I really can't get my head round what the storm in some sections of the Anglican tea-cup is about. The fact that God’s anger over all the sinful things I have ever done and will ever do was dealt with once and for all on the cross is enough for me.  These words alone far outweigh any lengthy discussion on that short phrase 'For I am His and He is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ'.

I simply cannot craft an argument here that will stand up to knowledgeable theological types and I’m not even going to attempt to. I may be biased, short-sighted, too simple for some folks, but I do have a photograph of the three bridesmaids at my son’s wedding (not to be shared here as they are adults and I do not have their permission). They all have their eyes closed, hands aloft in worship and faces slanted upwards whilst singing these words from the song ‘No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand’.

It's not necessarily logical but it is a perfect image of what I know.

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