Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thoughts on Worship . . .

At Southland Christian Church last night, the pastor said something that struck me as both kind and respectful. He was talking about the church's vision to involve young people in church when he stopped in the middle and focused for a moment on the older folks in the crowd--the ones who aren't so thrilled with modern music and loud praise bands. 

I can't quote exactly, but basically he thanked the older folks (and there were a lot of them) for giving up their musical preferences in order to meet the needs of the next generation(s). There was no rancor, no "you're not hip and cool if you don't like loud music." Just simple respect.  I have to say, it touched me deeply.  My husband too.

I don't think of myself as old, but I'm definitely on the border. Just about any kind of worship appeals to me.  When we went to a Lutheran church in California, I fell in love with the liturgy that included a chant-like hymn called "This is the Feast of Victory For Our God."  It was easy to lose myself in the music because it became embedded in my brain from repetition. The melody is simple, lilting and just beautiful.  I still hum that hymn and find peace in it.

I can lose myself in some contemporary songs too.  My current favorite is "Oceans." Wow. Just Wow. It's God-focused, poetic and about the struggle to live by faith. I'm less enamored by songs that are "me" focused. They're fine on the radio or as a personal prayer, but they strike me as more private than a song that's written to be sung by a group that's come together for the purpose of praising our Lord and Creator.

I personally think rock n' roll is inherently narcissistic in its performance style.  Just look at Mick Jagger, even Springsteen (whose music I like a lot). We're focused on the performance, on the person singing, the rock star.  The audience may join in on "Born to Run," but the focus is on The Boss (and I mean Bruce here). 

What if churches did something that was done in the Middle Ages? Back then, the choir was in the back of the church, and the people faced the altar in the front. What if we put the band in the back of the church and we all faced forward and simply closed our eyes, or stared at the cross?  What if we just turned around for a few minutes and blocked out the noise and lights and graphics and paused to  be still and know that he is God? 

I'm fine with light shows and graphics, but mostly I close my eyes to block out the distractions.  Of course, that's just me. Other Christians find God in the very things I find distracting.  No problem. I can worship wherever God puts me.  As a dear writer friend often says, "We're snowflakes and thumb prints."  Let's embrace our differences.

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