Monday, June 27, 2005

weird hymns

I spent the weekend in Jekyll Island Georgia for the Conference on Communication and the Environment (about which I hope to blog more later) but I first need to tell you-all about the church service we went to on Sunday morning. Jekyll Island has a number of denominations, Kathi and I chose to go to the 8:30 episcopalian service because of the convenient timing. We were by far the youngest people in the place, (we knew things were gonna be interesting when the vicar began the service saying "it's good to see you all alive and well") It was traditional anglican liturgy, straight from the prayer book and the lectionary I assume, but we sang this really weird hymn, which left me in the pew feeling a little bit horrified and whose lyrics I found online to share with you all:

They cast their nets in Galilee just of the hills of brown;
such happy simple folk before the Lord came down.
Contented, peaceful fishermen, before they ever knew
the peace of God that filled their hearts brimful,and broke them too.

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,homeless in Patmos died.
Peter who hauled the teaming net, head down was crucified.
The peace of God it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for just one thing the marvelous peace of God.

So, um, I didn't know quite what to do with that one. It made a bit more sense when the gospel reading for the day followed, but still, it deals with some tough ideas in a trite and inadequate way. This seems some weird mix of the "family values" christianity that just wants everything G-rated (contented peaceful fishermen) and Mel Gibson brutalism without much explination. I know the hymn didn't leave me thinking the peace of God made any sense at all. And maybe it doesn't, but it seems like something we can't just sing to a jaunty tune and then say "thanks be to God," sit down, and hear a loosely related homily. There's more to life in Christ than "strife closed in the sod" right? I mean, I guess that's part of it, but... wow.


Anonymous said...

weeird. Even more horrific than the Alma Mater!

I left a note on an outdated poster on the WAffice for you. ...But I'm afraid the note is also now outdated. Didn't realize you were in Georgia and would therefore be unable to accompany us to the Holland beach that weekend.

Any idea who John Class is? Check my weblog for further details.

Love ya Bethknee!
I like being "Anonymous" but not quite, since you know who this is. It's like... a CODE! ooooh! :)

Stevie Abler said...

It''s quite impressive.

Anonymous said...

wow was looking for these lyrics when I came across your post, I was in the childrens choir at my church when I was a kid, we used to sing this hymn in practice and sometimes in church, actually it is the only hymn I know by heart and has always been my favorite. It isn't ment to be horrific, it is ment to display how god fills our hearts, and regardless of what happens on earth, he waits in heaven with his love.

bethany said...

You're obviously reading the hymn in the context of your own beliefs, which is fine, but that's not in the text. Broken hearts, strife closed in the sod, crucifixion. No God waiting in heaven appears in this text. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen that hymn before, but I can see why you'd find it horrific. Find God, probably have a horrific earthly life of strife and violent death, but hey! you're doing it for God, so how dare you not feel privileged to be in misery?

Somehow, I just don't think that was His intended message. I've never understood how people can believe that they are the creation of God and yet also believe God wants his creation to actively (almost on purpose) suffer. There's just a bizarre streak of massochism there that puts me right off the whole show.

bethany said...

anon most recent: I think the goal of this hymn was more to acknowledge that doing the right thing and being radical does involve a lot of sacrifice and hurt, and I appreciate that, but was disturbed by the jauntiness associated with the sentiment.

anon previous: wait a minute, it's the ONLY hymn you know by heart? no Amazing Grace? no Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing? No Be Thou My Vision? You are missing out on hymnody.

Jim Knowles-Tuell said...

I just came across your post when I was looking online to see what might be there regarding this hymn (which I've loved for almost 40 years). I think a quote from Rob Bell might speak to this: The peace we are offered is not a peace that is free from tragedy, illness, bankruptcy, divorce, depression, or heartache. It is peace rooted in the trust that the life Jesus gives us is deeper, wider, stronger, and more enduring than whatever our current circumstances are, because what we see is not all there is and the last word about us and our struggle has not yet been spoken.

kmd said...

My take on this hymn: It challenges my understanding of God and of Peace.