A relatively brief post, while I contemplate whether or not, or when, to get on board the preaching-post bandwagon.
It has occurred to me that one of the precipitating reasons for the so-called "Contemporary Worship" movement was boredom. Not with the Liturgy, though the Liturgy poorly administered can certainly become tedious, but with the glut of mediocre hymnody that seems to reign, even now, in so many Lutheran congregations. I'm talking about the standard, staple repertoire of hymns that dominate good old-fashioned conservative congregations. As soon as I would offer some specific examples, I'd start to get hate mail from people, so I'm not inclined to do that; because I'm thinking of hymns that are "old favorites" for lots of folks. Truth be told, I'm thinking of hymns that have been "old favorites" of mine, especially from my childhood.
I'm not talking about bad hymns, nor about hymns with questionable or heterodox theology. What I have in mind are hymns that do manage to say a few things that are true and right and good, because they confess the Word of God, more or less straightforwardly, though perhaps not eloquently or profoundly. I'm not suggesting that there is no place for such hymnody. There is. In any case, these are hymns that have found a place in our Lutheran hymnals, and I don't expect that they will be going the way of all flesh any time soon.
The trouble is that many of these standard hymns, which constitute the mainstay of hymnody in a lot of congregations, are not musically sturdy nor theologically substantial nor poetically rich. In other words, they don't have a lot of staying power. They get old. And the more you sing them, the more boring and tedious they become. They lose whatever punch they might have had for a while. Not because they have nothing to say, but it's not much to begin with, and it isn't said all that beautifully (perhaps sappily, but not with real literary art), and it's set to a simplistic tune that is all too easily mastered by the second stanza.
More and more, I've been struck by the fact that Lutherans have not gotten tired of their own historic Lutheran hymnody. They haven't been singing that hymnody, by and large, and they don't even know much of it! If they think about it at all, they think it's too hard, and they aren't inclined to learn it. Consequently, it's not those great Lutheran chorales that have worn out their welcome in our congregations. For the most part, those majestic treasures of our heritage have not been welcomed in the first place. No, the culprits are the Methodist hymns, and the generic Protestant hymns, that have so dominated our congregations for the past several generations. With that in mind, I find it no surprise at all that people (pastors and laity alike) got tired of the hymns they were singing, and started to lust for something new.
The more I sing the solid and substantial hymns of the historic Church, of which there are also a few that have been written in recent generations, the less interesting I find the "old favorites" that once seemed so moving and meaningful to me. There's such a qualitative difference!
If I'm right, and people simply got tired of singing that same ol', same ol' stuff - those few dozen favorite "oldies" that everyone loves and nobody could bear to part with, but which simply don't have that much to say or to offer for the long haul - it's just a crying shame that congregations weren't introduced to the tried and true hymnody of the Church catholic, instead of being lulled into a steady diet of sugar highs, becoming addicted to a constant craving for the next new thing, but never really being fed or satisfied.