Monday, April 06, 2009

Praise Music and Palm Sunday

After my last post, my wife asked me to say more about my idea that doubt and faith are more closely related than certainty and faith. I've been intending to do just that, but it's a big enough job to have caused a bottleneck in my blogging. Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, I've got something else to say. It's still related to my previous post. In that post, I was trying to put my finger on what I don't like about the praise music that's so prevalent in non-liturgical churches. I said, this music "tends to begin with, 'Let's all stand and sing praise to our mighty God,' and stays there."

As I was on my way to church yesterday, it occurred to me that the emotional tone of this music is perfect for Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, coming in the middle of the great penitential season of Lent as it does, is a bit tricky to get right. It's too obvious that the praise and hosanna of Palm Sunday is hollow. And that's exactly how I feel about traditional praise music.

Praise music is overflowing with "God is great" and "we offer our full devotion" and so on, and I know as I sing it that it just isn't true, BUT it's perfect for Palm Sunday. It helps me play my part in the annual drama. So for me, the perfect Palm Sunday worship service would be filled with praise music of this nature, interrupted only by a strong sermon reminding me that I can't really back it up and a good send-off into holy week.

I know I'm coming across as very down on praise music, and I don't mean to. There's an awful lot of good to it. For one thing, the introduction of contemporary musical forms into the worship setting is fantastic. This music also helps a lot of people connect with and find expression for the difficult emotions of praise and worship. But it can't hold the weight of the full expression of the Christian life.

What the Church desperately needs right now is talented musicians with a strong sense of the emotions of the liturgy and the flow of the liturgical year. I know there out there. I pray that we will find their work.