We Americans have too many toys to play with to be constantly “gazing upon heaven.” We have bought into Pastor Perma-grin’s lie that this life is our Best Life Now and we have no real reason to anticipate a life in heaven. Sadness has been banished. We’ve replaced it with complaining, whining, pouting, and bitterness. But real sorrow, the sorrow that leads us to repentance (the repentance that turns our hearts from earthly things to spiritual things) has been expunged from our lifestyle and liturgy (2 Corinthians 7:10). We think sadness and worship are incongruous.
But for many people, going to church and worshipping is still the place to go to be sad; sad in a way that dignifies the human soul, magnifies a Sovereign Lord, and replenishes the human spirit with deep, inexpressible joy. It’s the kind of worship that actually believes the words of Jesus: Blessed – blessed! – are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4). This was certainly the case for the slaves many years ago, African-Americans during the Civil Rights conflict, and it still is the case for places of oppression.
But what does the 21st century American really know about sadness? We try so hard to hermetically insulate ourselves from the hardness of life that, too often, our worship has the glib triumphalism of people who are trying to sing perky hallelujahs to God every Sunday because we have the Americanized conception of worship that we are not really worshiping until we have a happy experience. So be perky! Smile! Put your hands together! Shout! Make a joyful noise! But our peaks of joy are so low because our valleys are so shallow.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
When we first made the Jeremiah album, "Sorrow to Hope," some suggested to me that the group of songs were too heavy. And as I have been studying and writing songs based upon the Messianic Psalms, it has repeatedly been evident that the themes of sorrow (and others - like imprecation) found throughout the Psalms are not just ignored but actively avoided in our modern church music. We are greatly impoverished for it, and my friend Bob Bixby has written an article that is particularly thought provoking and insightful on that topic. Here is a snippet: