One of the things I like to occasionally do in Sunday worship is to play a song from my Ipod, or a music video, that I think connects to a theme I am developing, or a point I want to make in a sermon. I do this for at least three reasons:
1) I like to encourage deeper “reading” or interpretation of the culture we live in. Viewing popular culture with spiritual questions in mind can help us see, sometimes, that we are not the only ones on a search for meaning.
2) There are song-writers and musicians who have inspired, challenged, touched me deeply through their work, and I like to pay homage to them.
3) Some songs just seem like a good fit.
This past Sunday marked the beginning of the liturgical season of Advent. Each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas has a traditional theme attached to it. We light a candle on the Advent wreath each successive week, for Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
For “Hope” Sunday, I had this idea that we would listen to the Dixie Chicks song “I Hope”. This was a song that the group premiered a few years ago on a Red Cross telethon in the U.S. that raised money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
I like the song. It speaks to me about building hope, by making good choices about how we act, and about the need to be aware that our children watch our behaviour. We have the power, to some degree, to shape their futures, by the examples we offer them. A young girl who sees her father abuse and berate her mother may be more likely to see that behaviour as normal, and to accept similar treatment.
Maybe if I had introduced the song to the congregation with some thoughts about what I see in it, it would have gone over better. I usually try not to over-explain things, and trust that the listeners will hear for themselves what is of beauty and value.
The Dixie Chicks were not a big hit at Trinity this past Sunday. While most people in attendance were receptive, and appreciative of the service, and many offered their reflections on the overall theme- the only comments I heard about the song “I Hope”, were along these lines:
“ I just didn’t hear anything in it.”
“I liked everything else, but...”
“ Sorry, I didn’t like that song at all.”
I actually was not surprised to receive this feedback. I could feel in the sanctuary that the song was not “working”, not “connecting” with people. The night before, as I was doing my Saturday final touches on the worship script, I had actually considered not using it. There were a lot of other things happening in the service, and I was worried about running long. The song is a little over 4 minutes in length. The worship service ended up about 7 minutes over the usual hour.
I had decided to leave the song in, mostly because we had put the lyrics on a bulletin insert, and I thought it would be waste of paper if I did not use it.
“I Hope” that next time I will follow my instinct better, and not hesitate to pull something if I don’t think it is going to work.