Lyrics are a funny thing. In an old Kevin Prosch song, we find this lyric:
“It breaks the heavy yoke, breaks the heavy yoke, when you shout, you shout to the Lord.”
Obviously, as all you Doctors of Christian Theology will know, this is a reference to the first chapter of Nahum in the Old Testament. Nice.
Tragically, it fell foul of some really amusing typography when someone in my previous church tried to type the lyrics up for an overhead projector.
One Sunday we sang this song, and “Shouting to the Lord” allegedly broke “the heavy oak.” A gentler person than I broke the news that a typo had been spotted (not the first, never going to be the last; we’re all human; etc….) and a new sheet was produced.
Obviously, “No, it should be ‘Yoke’ with a ‘Y'” wasn’t enough, for the following week “Shouting to the Lord” broke “the heavy yolk.”
My father, ever the diplomat under most circumstances nevertheless grinned and made a comment about divine omelettes. This was an unusual event in itself. If even he was moved by this appalling lack of research and blatant misunderstanding, I feel I’m entitled to a brief titter.
Before I get too superior though, the mistake makes a point which we overlook at our peril. Someone in the church in a position of responsibility didn’t understand the lyric. That’s the root of the mistake, and the lesson we should learn. In the same way that we have to be careful how we use “there/they’re/their” we have to be careful that the words we write in songs mean something to those who sing them, and that their meaning is clear even out of the fullest context.
If we don’t understand the words, or we’re not sure why we’re singing them, why should we expect everyone to join in?