Last night at church I was left a bit out of sorts musically and lyrically. I always have trouble keeping a straight face if things go comically wrong, but I also have a job to stop gurning if things go more seriously against the general plan.
The biggest problem to begin with was unsingable worship. Songs in B flat are often written in G for guitarists to play on capo 3, but this shouldn’t mean they can simply drop the key by three frets and get away with it. Please, people, just check the highest and lowest melody notes to see if your key change is possiible.
The second song was full of religious jargon and thus distracted me from the actual matter at hand. Words like “holy”, “worthy”, “glory” and “sphincter” aren’t generally used in polite conversation, but I bet more people know the meaning of the last one than those of the others. It too had suffered at the hands of the phantom transpositionist.
What really left me wanting less, however, was the lyric “Consuming fire, fan into flame a passion for your name.”
I know it’s not just me. The image of God as a consuming fire works for me, even if it didn’t for Moses. How, though, should a fire fan something into flame? That’s a job for wind (see metaphors for Holy Spirit) and not fire. Fire spreads by many means, but fanning requires wind. Ask any Californian.
The metaphors of fire for God and flames for religious passion are acceptable but mutually exclusive. It spoils my enjoyment of what is otherwise a perfectly adequate song.
So this week my message to Christian lyricists everywhere is this:
Grasp the nettle by the horns and sort out your metaphors.