I’m fairly certain we prefer a sanitized Bible.
I’m even more certain we prefer sanitized worship songs.
This morning we sang that epic wave-making worship limerick by John Mark McMillan: “so heaven meets earth, like a sloppy wet kiss…” and those leading the singing belted out the line with gusto. I was happy to join them. Most in the congregation probably were not. Even the projected words read the softened text: “like an unforeseen kiss”. Bo-ring!
The original simile is intentionally at once both striking and messy. It well describes the impassioned, all-in in-breaking of heaven on earth. Its the one I prefer. And its hard to sing. But I want to sing it because it reminds me of the many strange and powerful, disturbing and poignant poems of Scripture. Hey, I’m an Old Testament guy, so I don’t have the leisure to study safe texts.
Like this one from my morning devotional reading (just before heading to church and singing “like a sloppy wet kiss”):
“How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;
I have not run after the Baals’?
See how you behaved in the valley;
consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
running here and there,
a wild donkey accustomed to the desert,
sniffing the wind in her craving—
in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
at mating time they will find her.” (Jeremiah 2:23-24 NIV)
Where is the song we sing about being “a wild donkey…in her heat”? By the way, I’m not really wanting to sing that one and thankfully it was not written to be sung (at least I hope not). Yet there it is…right in our nice little Bibles. And here we are…called to confess such as the word of the LORD (“Thanks be to God”).
How should we express such imagery in song? Are we only to sing songs our “sensibilities” welcome? Is there room in the Church to embrace such divine provocations?