The thing about song writing, which is nice, is that you can take real life-which we all know can be imperfect and messy- You can take real life and shape it to how you want it to be- Jarvis CockerRadio 5- Octoberfest Sheffield
Pulp were one of those bands which I listened to a bit when I was a student, I liked some songs, didn't like others but I always thought it was a 100 times better than anything by Boyzone, but I was hardly their demographic!
Last year's Diocesan Conference on "Living Worship & the Transforming Mission of God" was thought provoking and I have been having a few thoughts. I can't do justice to the sessions by Paula Gooder on Psalm 145, Matt 28 and Rom 12. Though I must confess to reguarly pointing to the Psalms for real life praise. I realise this short blog post may be my only post on it but it is something I am playing with in my journal.
Bernadette Farrell the liturgist & community organiser (ie hymn writer and justice campaigner as an imperfect paraphrase), talked about:
The world as it is and the world as it should be, justice brings it togetherOn our table we discussed living worship as opposed to what? I felt this was probably best summed up by if it is not living worship it is not worship. However, that means I have to ask myself some significant questions as someone who spends a lot of time arranging corporate worship. I realise it is not about the style of the service or the quality of the music team(our music team are great) or even about the amount of time that has gone into preparation. I am also aware that it is not something we always feel (though the person next to us might). I think it goes back to what we think worship is all about. I maybe naive but I would say that many of our services do not tick all the boxes and some of our hymns and chorus' are a little twee... not so much longing for heaven or providing a picture of the world as it should be but an airbrushed version.
Off the shelf services can tick every box when it comes to the words that are spoken, reminding us of the justice and mercy of God but it has to be inhabited. Which is where Jarvis Cocker's quote comes in. I think Christian liturgy should not remove the imperfect and messy but help us to see the world as it should be.
At last year's conference I received some sad news about someone we loved. I was angry with God I had no words of my own, but was reminded simply of the verse "Jesus wept" John 11.35. The Psalmists could be angry with God he is big enough to deal with that and if Psalms mean praises, then even in the midst of our expressing our hurt, anger and pain we are still praising God. I sometimes think we arrogantly assume that when life stinks, when we see the evil one, steal, kill and destroy that God is not aware of this or unmoved by it. He is and we should be too.
How can we sing the songs of the redeemed in the land of Egypt? Gospel music has had this at its heart, there is plenty of songs which include lament but also hope. We may feel life at times is dark and weary but the light cannot be extinguished. After Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, he raised him from the dead. Jesus' words can change our lives. God can and does bring life out of death.