More Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnody high jinks...
The "Justice, Peace" department ends with 729 "The church of Christ, in every age" by Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000), set to the familiar 18th-century tune WAREHAM1. Green starts things off with a striking argument that, amid the changes from age to age, the church "must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead." Stanza 2 draws attention to the hungry and homeless "across the world, across the street," who "never live before they die." It gets down to the nitty-gritty in Stanza 3 where Green opines that "the servant church... longs to be a partner in Christ's sacrifice"—which again, like so many other texts in this book, suggests a new spin on the Sacrifice of the Mass that makes it all about us feeding the hungry. It takes opportunity from a few Pauline statements about becoming "co-workers with God" and "filling up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ" (taken, I think, out of context) to put us on the cross next to Christ, if not instead of Him where relevance to today is concerned. Stanza 4 mentions that Jesus shed his blood and so "can cure the fever in our blood," but without more clearly articulating the gospel it goes straight on to sharing bread and feeding the hungry—an equivocal description that could be either (literally) about helping the poor or (figuratively) about spreading the gospel. Stanza 5 further muddies this distinction by claiming that our only mission is "to care for all, without reserve, and spread his liberating word"—which, for all this hymn tells us, could be the message of liberation theology. Caring for the poor is a Christian thing to do, but I ask you: is it necessary for the church to test its heritage so far as shedding the forgiveness of sins and the teaching of a kingdom not of this world, to which we are heirs in Christ? I believe a church that crawls out of its crypt on that basis becomes not the heirs of life, but the Walking Dead.
739 "Touch the earth lightly" is an environmentalist hymn by Shirley Murray (b. 1931), set to a modern tune by Colin Gibson (b. 1933) that reminds one of BUNESSAN ("Morning has broken"). Murray's lyrics put the onus on us to "nourish the life of the world in our care," accuses us of creating hunger, death, and disaster, and prays for environmental renewal. Its concluding (fourth) stanza asks Christ to "teach us, deflect us, (and) reconnect us." So firmly does the hymn cleave to the green worldview that it never seriously considers trusting God to preserve His creation for the benefit of mankind.
Thanks in part to a stretch of rather good hymns (including one with a fetching tune from the Philippines, and another by Martin Luther himself), and in part to a few songs I have already savaged in this thread, this segment of "Tacky Hymns" comes to a surprisingly early close. The superior quality, on average, of hymns under the topic-heading of "Prayer" might also have something to do with this. Till next time, flee tackiness, ye who savor the good things of the Lord!
1My mnemonic for identifying this tune on a "drop the piano" hymnology quiz was to sing it in my head to the words, "This tune is WAREHAM. This tune is WAREHAM. This tune is WAREHAM," etc. In case that doesn't help you spot it, it's the tune The Lutheran Hymnal pairs with "Let thoughtless thousands choose the road."