Your Attention Please

One of the challenging byproducts of our busyness-worshiping culture is an obsession with the newest toys and gimmicks that feed our preoccupation with being able to be anywhere and everywhere at once.  I would argue along with others that this often distracts us from being fully engaged in any place we find ourselves physically present at nearly any given point in time.  When someone is in my office, standing in the hall visiting with me, or eating lunch across from me and pops out their cellphone while I am talking, I tend to think, “I guess my conversation is just not interesting enough to hold their attention.”  I picked a guy up at the airport the other day and he at least had the courtesy, once in the car, to ask permission, “Do you mind if I make a couple of calls?”  Of course, I told him to go right ahead.  I said I didn’t mind, but really I sorta didn’t and sorta did.  Interstingly, though he was headed to speak at an important event, he was on the phone lining up a rendezvous with a business associate during his short break between speaking engagements.  He paused the conversation long enough to check a couple of meeting places on the internet (on his phone), and then to inform his buddy where they could meet.  Wow.

Let me quickly confess.  My fascination at that moment was a combination of disgust and envy.  I was a little dissappointed that in my twenty minutes with this guy, he would never be present in the car with me, though his body and voice (and luggage) were there.  I was interested in his work and his story, but then again..hey, I can google him later. Right?  My envy, of course, was his phone and his ability to use it so efficiently to better pack absolutely every minute with “productive” activity.  These twenty-somethings move at a fast pace, and I have to admit some envy at that point as well.  Man, if I would have had a phone like that (and could operate it) when I was in my twenties, life would have been very different.

This is a roundabout way to get to a point I want to make about this season of the Christian Year, Lent.  I do not want to presume that you are or are not observing the season, but can personally no longer ignore what fellow believers around the world are observing at some level. The forty days of Lent (forty-six calendar days because Sundays remain festive days of Resurrection celebration).  This is a season to give sincere focus to our spiritual lives and to open ourselves to reassessment and renewal.  It is a time to take inventory of our thoughts, attitudes, and actions toward God, others and ourselves.  Even that busyness mentioned previously needs to be opened up for honest review during our communion with the Spirit.  I find this season to provide unique opportunities to give my faith journey attention.  Obviously, this takes place with keen awareness of the Spirit’s presence and prayer for His guidance.

Lent has been shaped by its early practice, preparing candidates for baptism into the faith.  For Christians who have already been baptized, Lent can be a season of renewal, “lest a lively faith be diminished by an increased conformity to old ways, or simply the dead weight of unimaginative piety.”[1] There is a strong sense in which Lent is shaped by the Gospel itself.  It begins with a time of confession and penitence.  We acknowledge and confess (agree with God as convicted by His Holy Spirit) our rebellion.  We are “prone to wander, Lord I feel it.”  I would encourage worship leaders to read, even if on Wikipedia, about Lent and its beginning point of Ash Wednesday. The concentration on our sinfulness and rebellion toward God and His creation is certainly painful, but an important precursor to a more full-orbed grasp of Holy Week and especially the resplendent praise and thanksgiving of Easter.  It is crucial that believers recognize our present context within the human condition, and open our sagging spirits to the careful omnipresent eye of the Holy Spirit.

You may or may not be aware that Baptists’ former practice (some still do this) of Spring Revivals have roots in the season of Lent.  Of course many have canned those practices as outdated or non-creative, and besides, we are just too busy for such.  Who would come?  How would we get a big crowd?  People don’t have time to give their attention to such matters these days.

The shaping of Gospel continues through the Lenten season as we move toward Holy Week, and once again hear God’s story of salvation provision in Jesus’ crucifixion – ultimate price paid for our sin.  The dramatics of Easter Sunday begin fifty days of Easter on the liturgical calendar.  I’ll soon have a guest article regarding this period and practice.  So, think about the development of the Lent season.  What began with ash crosses reminding us of our sins and human frailty comes full circle to unbridled praise for our Risen Lord Who invites us to share in His Resurrection; to turn children of darkness to children of Light!

As you know I try to bring these mini-epistles around to application for us as worship leaders, and there is certainly plenty here for that use.  Again, I hasten to recognize that most of you do not guide the preaching emphasis and serve alongside a pastor who serves as the primary worship leader for your congregation.  It is of great importance that you follow his designs for worship emphasis and model unified spirit of ministry.  I would encourage you, however, to also consider how you might either influence the pastor’s thinking about this season, and/or at least to review the singing you will place upon the lips of worshiping people.  See if you cannot find means of helping your congregation experience moments of examination, confession, and surrender.  In so doing, there is rich opportunity to present the Gospel’s power to save.

As for you personally, I hope you will find time for walking through Lent.  I gave serious consideration to giving up my cellphone for Lent. I found other more visceral practices to place on hold that serve as daily reminder of my spiritual thirst.

In Real Time,

Paul

 

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Leading Worship, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

One Comment on “Your Attention Please”

  1. Patricia Balyeat Says:

    Before coming to the Baptist Church, I was in the Episcopal Church and we observed lent. I enjoyed observing the practice of lent because it taught me discipline of spirit over body; that my body didn’t have the last say in anything – the Spirit of God did. Once I gave up caffeine (cokes, chocolate, etc.) for lent, and as a result, stayed away from caffeine for 7 years. In the Baptist church we eat a lot – every function we have it seems, we need to eat. In revivals today we seem to come together to eat for fellowship rather than fasting for a move of God. I don’t mean to be critical…it’s just an observation. I even liked Ash Wednesday (I was a new Christian) because for me in those early days it “marked” me as being His child and in a society where we are so consumed with how we look (“Excuse me, you have something on your forehead…”) – we can set it all aside for Him, in more ways than just appearance.


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