This is post number 34 in the hymn series.
Finlandia by Jean Sibelius provides one of the most moving hymn tunes. Most people know it as the tune for "Be Still My Soul."
Be still, my soul: for God is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change God faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best eternal friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Many find this hymn to be consoling, and it has often appeared in favourite hymn lists and surveys in the church's I've served. However, there is a "religion as the opiate of the masses" quality to it. It also has bad theology.
When Jesus instructed his disciples to "take up their crosses and follow him," he meant that they were to be willing to risk everything in their challenge of the powers-that-be and the creation of a new and better world. The cross, of course, as an instrument of torture and execution was a symbol of injustice and oppression. Jesus wanted followers who were willing to suffer martyrdom.
So, when a dear elderlly woman says of her arthritis, "I guess it's my cross to bear," that is really bad theology and a complete distortion of the gospel. She's come of the view honestly, for this bad theology has often been promulgated by the church as a means of consolation for suffering. It just isn't what Jesus meant. This hymn, of course, has furthered that bad theology.
At CoH-OKC one of our church members, David Disbrow, adapted the lyrics to overcome this bad theology. I can't seem to find a copy of them, but maybe David can share them in the comments.
Fortunately, FINLANDIA is the tune for a truly great hymn "This Is My Song."
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
But other lands have sunglight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
The first time we did a hymn sing Sunday here at First Central this hymn was requested, and it was the first time that my husband Michael ever heard it. He immediately fell in love with it and now requests it himself every hymn sing Sunday (and other times). He wants it sung at his funeral. A few weeks ago the first two hymns requested at this year's hymn sing were "Be Still My Soul" and "This Is My Song."
On September 11, 2011 we sang this song in worship.