Further to my ongoing mission to shine the light of sarcasm on Tackiness on Holy Ground, we continue to page through the hymns of ELW (Evangelical Lutheran Worship; Augsburg, 2006). You are welcome to flip backward through this thread for more information about what makes hymns tacky in my view. We resume our study of ELW where we left off, at about Hymn #425.
Lest anyone accuse me of attacking any and every new hymn that I haven't seen in print before, let me point out that the Angel of Death to Tackiness here passes over 426 "Sing with all the saints in glory" by 19th-century poet William Irons, set to W. B. Roberts' (b. 1947) touchingly lovely modern tune MISSISSIPPI1; 428 "Give thanks for saints" (Give thanks for those whose faith is firm) by Martin Leckebusch (b. 1962), set to the dignified tune REPTON by C. H. H. Parry; 429 "In our day of thanksgiving" by W. H. Draper (1855-1933), set to Richard Strutt's late-Romantic tune ST. CATHERINE'S COURT (a piece of music, however, not at all to my taste); and even 431 "O Christ, what can it mean for us" by Benedictine nun Delores Dufner (b. 1932), though I have lampooned her work elsewhere, and though this hymn is set to Henry Cutler's (1824-1902) mildly tiresome tune ALL SAINTS NEW ("The Son of God goes forth to war," etc.). And so today's first victim of my rapier wit will be...
447 "O blessed spring" (where word and sign) is Susan Cherwien's baptism hymn, set to R. B. Farlee's tune BERGLUND. Some of what I find tacky about this hymn may be a result of poetry straining the limits of language, but I don't know. To write publishable verse takes a great deal of work, self-criticism, and willingness to reconsider and revise. Since this verse was indeed published, it stands to reason that the author worked at it, looked at it critically, reconsidered it, and revised it; so if it doesn't say what she meant, it's her lookout. Stanza 1, however, says that in baptism, "Christ enjoins each one to be a branch of his life-giving Tree," which is a funny way of using "enjoins" if it is supposed to mean "grafts." Taken in the usual sense of the word, it seems to mean that in baptism, Christ commands us to join ourselves to Him; so the joining is our doing, not His. Honestly, the first half of the stanza ("where word and sign embrace us into Christ the Vine") is stronger, though still weirdly reminiscent of the clingy, Devil's Snare vines in Harry Potter. Verse 2 sounds like an excuse for letting kids run wild and fall away from the faith, because they will come back later. While this is a good argument for the validity of baptism even among those who fall away, it is far from being the kind of encouragement best given to the parents of a newly baptized child; they need rather to hear that this baby is their mission field, and since it is now God's child and they its guardians, they are accountable to God for bringing it up in the faith. Stanzas 3-4 continue the hymn's driving metaphor of "baptism through all four seasons of your life," and Stanza 5's confession that "word and water join us to your Tree of Life" is the strongest part of a hymn that gets better as it goes along. But it stumbles at the starting gate of its run around the whole circle of baptismal life. It could be so much better, so much stronger, without the weak word-choice in Stanza 1 and Stanza 2's fatalistic outlook on "training up a child in the way he should go."
1To be sure, I was already familiar with this hymn via The Lutheran Service Book (LSB; Concordia, 2006).