Have you ever stopped to consider that in our culture (which we conveniently copy from the West), there are very few songs that are fit for funerals? Not that death is something that needs singing about but because of the fact that of the many people who die every day, our churches’ music doesn’t offer much comfort for the grieving.
Two things led me to this thought. One happened yesterday when I chanced to read the most memorable quotes from Lord of the Rings. In the famous siege of Gondor, Denethor asked Pippin to sing a song for him. This was particularly grim scene. The army of Saruman was advancing, Boromir was dead, Faramir looked weak, and there was no hope. Pippin told Denethor that yes he knew some songs but that his songs were not fit for the great halls of Gondor, and especially not fit for the dark ocassion.
Pippin sang anyway. And if you watch closely, you could feel the deep emotional pull of the scene. They were dying, and Pippin’s song was a proper ode to their doom. Well, except that they were actually saved in the nick of time but that’s an entirely different topic.
The other thing that led me to this thought was Justin Taylor’s blog post on this very topic. He was quoting Carl Trueman:
Perhaps . . . [the Western church] has drunk so deeply at the well of modern Western materialism that it simply does not know what to do with such cries and regards them as little short of embarrassing.
A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party—a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals.
True. Every pastor who has ever officiated a necrological service knows this very well. He wants to comfort the grieving family with Christ centered service but his musicians and singers don’t know any old songs fit for the ocassion. This stands in stark contrast with the songs we find in the book of Psalms. There we find lyrics about crying, grieving, rejoicing, and even farming. Without meaning to, we have programmed our people to think that Christian music is only for celebration.
Not for grief. Not for comfort.
Seriously, does anyone still know the song “In the Sweet By and By?”