Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Clear Message - Meyer

I was sitting in church today, singing songs that were written 200 or even 400+ years ago, mouthing words like, “hark, thine, oxen, ass, whither, leadeth” and wondering how much our choice of songs has hindered the spread of the Gospel in our century.
If we continue week after week in our churches to sing songs that were written centuries ago, how does this influence our word choice when we talk about God?

As we are all well aware, Jesus did not speak in King James English. He spoke in the common language of the ordinary people of his day… ordinary everyday people like shepherds and fishermen.

Why do we as followers of Jesus, hold so tightly to words and phrases and songs that create misunderstanding, confusion and lack of comprehension of the simple Gospel truth that Jesus taught?

Martin Luther would no doubt be horrified that we are still singing the songs that he wrote for the common people of his day! If he were alive today, he might very well nail another Ninety-Five Theses on the walls of our “sanctuaries” in protest. His incredible stride forward to translate the Bible from Latin into modern German (modern for his day) seems a waste as we continue to read and study the Bible in a translation that is 500 years old.

John Wesley, a great hero of the faith, astounded the audiences of his day when he wrote songs for the common people in their everyday language. Now, we sing them over and over again even though they are no longer in the everyday language of the people in our century. They can only be appreciated by people who have: (a) studied Shakespeare extensively or (b) been “raised in the church.”

And it’s not as if we don’t have enough great musicians in our century! We have them in huge abundance and their music is more readily available to us than music has ever been to any other generation in human history.

At this time of the year, may I encourage you to have a listen to some of the wonderful Christmas music that is out there written in today’s languages by today’s musicians. And then let’s sing them together in our churches across the land. Let the Good News of Christmas be heard in the plain, simple language that it was first spoken!

Dorene Meyer

Author of Deep Waters, The Little Ones and Jasmine
Now in book stores across Canada
Distributed by Word Alive Press
Available online and as ebook on Amazon (key in title of book and publisher: Word Alive Press).


Peter Black said...

You present a very clear case, and rightly so; what you say is correct.
I'm sure there is value in bringing elements of heritage along with us on our journey, so long as they don't obscure the message by irrelevance, nor shut out others from receiving and understanding it.
Therein lies a great challenge for those of us who treasure language and what to us is comfortable and familiar.
Thank you for the stimulation.

Janet Sketchley said...

Dorene, I'd love to see some of these older songs "translated" into current language. It'd have to be very skillfully done, but some of those songs are classics and their meaning is timeless. Unfortunately the words aren't.

(Shoot me, but I feel the same way about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein's writing...)

You're right, though. Sometimes I listen to the words of hymns year-round and think if we have a visitor we'd better translate.

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