Friday, January 9, 2015

why your pastor won’t let you sing “amazing grace” every Sunday and other disconcerting tales of woe

You pastors put up with a lot. We beat you up. We tear you down. We dump stuff on your plate. We cry to you. We babble. We tell you why you’re wrong. We tell you why we’re right. We dissect your sermons. We fall asleep during your sermons. We think you only work an hour every week.
Yeah. We’re pretty sure we could do your jobs a whooooooole lot better.
Whoops. Forgot one.
We also think your hymn choices are pretty ridiculous.
That’s because each of us, at best, has about four hymns that we really like. And those are basically the only four we ever want to sing.
I know my four. And if we never sang another hymn other than those, I’d easily live the rest of my life in peace and contentment.
But my pastors don’t let me wallow in what I like. That’s not their job. Mostly their job is to tell me things I don’t like: that I don’t love my neighbor like I’m supposed to, that I despise God’s Word, that I like setting up false gods because they seem to have more shine and more bling, that I don’t believe my sins have consequences.
It’s also why they choose hymns that aren’t on my Fab Four list. They choose hymns that I haven’t sung before, that are hard for me to wrap my vocal chords around, that cause me to have to work at singing them.
They do that because the hymns are worth it, because they teach the faith in ways I haven’t understood before, because those hymns confess what I believe even if I’ve never articulated it that way until now.
And that’s when their job of telling me what I don’t like becomes exactly what faith in Christ does like, what it reaches out and grabs hold of with its sticky little hands:
By grace I’m saved, grace free and boundless; My soul, believe and doubt it not. Why stagger at this word of promise? Has Scripture ever falsehood taught? No! Then this word must true remain: By grace you too will life obtain. (LSB 566:1)

God said to His beloved Son: “It’s time to have compassion. Then go, bright jewel of My crown, And bring to all salvation. From sin and sorrow set them free; Slay bitter death for them that they May live with You forever.” (LSB 556:5)

Christians, to the Paschal Victim Offer your thankful praises! The Lamb the sheep has ransomed: Christ, who only is sinless, Reconciling sinners to the Father. Death and life have contended In that combat stupendous: The Prince of life, who died, Reigns immortal. (LSB 461)

What punishment so strange is suffered yonder! The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander; The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him, Who would not know Him. (LSB 439:3).
See? Four new awesome hymns. Right there.
Aw, man. Now I’m already up to eight.
My pastors could just let me sing the same four hymns every Sunday. But that would be the same as my husband telling me to eat Skittles every night for dinner. He could do that, but he knows there’s more food out there and food that’s good for me too, that there’s steak and broccoli and milk and that each one of them is good for my health in a different way.
Pastors, I’m sorry we give you grief. I’m sorry we snark about your sermons and dump all the sin of our lives on your doorsteps. And I’m sorry that we give you a rough time when you introduce a new hymn simply because it’s not something we’re familiar with.
Because while I love Skittles, I’m also a new, big fan of broccoli.
And until now, I never even realized it.

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