I laugh sometimes when I hear people say, “I'm a foodie”. I think you meant to say “I’m a human”. Um… isn’t that all of us? Food is awesome. Sweet, savory, every flavor created by the mad scientist Himself. I’m with the poet Wendell Berry who said there’s really nothing better than "a plate of nourishing, tasty, beautiful food artfully and lovingly prepared.” Add to that some good friends around a table. There is not much better in this life.
When we talk about worship, we are literally talking about a meal. Each Sunday, we gather and remember Christ by taking the bread and the wine (or the Welch’s for us Southern Baptists). We feast with friends and family, and our souls are nourished by the true bread and true drink. But I want us to take a moment here to consider the idea of meal as a metaphor for what occurs on Sunday mornings... specifically with regard to the songs we sing.
If the goal of the Sunday gathering is to make disciples, to nourish the believer, to elevate our taste buds to higher things, to whet the appetite of the non-believer, then perhaps we should make sure what’s on the plate is "nourishing, tasty, beautiful… artfully and lovingly prepared”. We should simply and seriously consider what is on the plate. “You are what you eat” as my momma said. “We become what we behold” as my Bible says.
Ok, so let’s get in the kitchen and get practical for a moment, shall we? What do I mean?
Very simply: Some of the songs we sing are “bread”, and some are “candy”. And this is rather a good thing.
In the past I have been overly critical of songs in that “candy” category. But the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve come to embrace the ecclesiastical mantra that there is a time for all of it - a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to dance and to fight. My goal here is not to say what songs belong in what category, but rather to simply say that wisdom is in the balance, and that worship is a meal.
Let’s begin by considering for a moment, that there is such a thing as candy. Selah, praise God. Alright, what is candy? It is sweet, is it instantly satisfying, it is pure fun. And if you eat it alone as your diet, you’ll die.
Now let’s consider there is also such a thing as bread. (Maybe imagine some homemade sourdough, fresh out of the oven. From Italy. Selah) Alright, what is bread? Bread is filling. It is nourishing. Its flavors are not “exciting”, but they are interesting, layered, complex. You can eat more of it without getting sick. Its satisfaction is slower, but lasts longer.
Perhaps I don’t need to write anymore, and you can draw your own conclusions from here about worship, wisdom, and the songs you sing. Some might say "hymns are bread" and "modern worship songs are candy”. But I don’t think it’s that simple.
Basically each Sunday, I’m not simply trying to sing songs. I’m trying to feed people. I’m thinking about the church’s diet, both theologically and aesthetically. I’m trying to offer a meal that is first and most importantly nourishing. That gives them what they NEED. Secondly, I’m trying to make those nourishing things tasty - to wrap them in poetry and chords and colors and flavors that make the people want to gobble it all up. Finally, I’m trying to throw in a little dessert. Because our God is the God of fun, and He makes the wine that keeps the party going.
Maybe this Sunday you can think about your worship time from this lens - from the perspective of a meal. And think of yourself not as a song-singer, but as a chef. Is there a balanced meal on the plate? Is it all candy… instantly exciting, satisfying, understandable, and just a little too easy? Or is it all bread… dense and thick and healthy and deep but just a little too boring?
Worship leaders, this week, let’s give the bride that balanced meal of Truth and Spirit. Gravity and gladness. Let’s savor with God’s people all the favors of God’s story - the colors of creation, the bitterness of the fall, the sweetness of redemption, and the joy of the resurrection.