The Misplaced Love of Tradition

Sheet music for the hymn "Now the Day is ...
Sheet music for the hymn “Now the Day is Over” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-3 (NIV)

A few years back a colleague of mine began grilling me over a period of time about worship. His church had recently eschewed the traditional old hymns of the church and switched to a more contemporary form of music. Being one for whom change is a difficult thing, my friend was distraught by this change and was anxious to make a case for why it was wrong for his church to have done so.

I can remember the conversation as we rode in the car together, my friend sarcastically referring to what he called “7-11” songs: “You sing the same seven words eleven times.”

He didn’t get a sympathetic audience from me, I’m afraid. I understood his emotions. I was raised on the great hymns of the faith, too. I miss hearing them and singing those beautiful four part harmonies. But, things change. Music changes. Styles change. As for my friends disregard for singing the same line repetitively, that is a musical device that has existed for centuries. You can use today’s psalm as evidence. The phrase “His love endures forever” is repeated 26 times in 26 verses (I guess this would have to be labeled a “4-26” song). Some of the psalms of ascent we’ve read recently are far shorter than most of the popular worship songs of today, and as traveling music I have to believe they were sung over and over again.

We human beings are funny people. Sometimes change is difficult for us, and I find that our love of traditions can at times be stronger than our love of the Creator or of others. Rather than experience the grief of change, we go through the mental and spiritual gymnastics required to cloak change in half-baked theological or biblical arguments which make it look “wrong,” “improper,” or even “sinful.” What a silly waste of time and energy.

I’m glad that despite our foolishness “His love endures forever.”

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6 thoughts on “The Misplaced Love of Tradition”

  1. Excellent response to a silly argument. Yes, there are a lot of new songs that are shallow and not worth the paper they’re printed on, but the same could be said about hymns. I would say one of the big reasons we don’t have more hymns that are shallow and worthless is that the poor ones have been weeded out over time.

    1. Excellent point. Musical Darwinism, huh? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) To your point, I also experienced that most hymnals I ever used in a church had hundreds of hymns in them, but about 70-80 percent of them were hymns the church never sang.

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