Celebrating Death?

  Pastors and worship leaders will likely find yourselves in challenging territory this week as you plan Sunday worship in a week that has begun with the late Sunday night announcement that America’s public enemy #1 has been killed.  This on the heals of devastating tornados and the aftermath of sadness at loss of life, loss of property, and loss of livelihood.  I was riding home with my sons and son in law from a weekend fun trip when we got the news, first from a facebook post (I was not reading it and driving, it was my oldest son via i-phone).  We then turned on the radio to get tuned in to hear if it was true.  Confirmed – the ten year hunt for Osama bin Laden was complete.  News of this magnitude cannot go unmentioned when the church body gathers for their next engagement of shared worship.  To the contrary, our opportunity to speak into our present context is perhaps strongest during such moments.  As with the response to last week’s horrible tornados, media outlets may even care to know how believers respond in such landmark moments.  Our worship services may once again draw inquisitive attenders who want to hear someone offer a “thus saith the Lord” in response to life events of these recent days.  Our witness will include what we do in our liturgy (work of worship by the people) in the current context.

I have written in blog and book form previously to address tensions of worship.  I have particular appreciation that our hymnody and worship singing offer aid to help us express either aspect of any such given sense of tension.  No doubt God’s holiness and wrath seem to us in tension with His grace, mercy, and everlasting love.  Our righteous indignation is most always raised at someone else’s sin, not our own.  At the same time our inquisition as to how a good God who is sovereign could allow things to happen like the 9-11 tragedy or the tornado events of last week, runs smack dab into a sense of triumph when everybody’s “bad guy” is not just captured, but mowed down like the villain in a scene from a Bruce Willis movie.  We seem to breathe a collective victory sigh sensing justice has been served.  Yet, just days ago we presumably were called to “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

 I believe words of caution for us may be appropriate lest we slip into too close a correlation between our citizenship as fellow countrymen with our citizenship in a Kingdom not of this world.  I have turned this morning to a few people important in my own life’s journey for some perspective.  I re-read portions of an early copy of friend and respected educator, Rob Hewell’s dissertation on the politics of worship in the United States.  He sounds important cautions about confusing the message of Gospel with a message of nationalistic triumph.  The story of worship is God’s story, and His alone. Of course that same reminder of God’s metanarrative is a central message of Robert Webber.  More recently David Platt’s books have challenged our faith as Christ followers in direct relationship to our cultural context and its temptations.  A former pastor’s son and now professor of systematic theology and Christian thought at Bethel Seminary posted a convicting reminder this morning focusing on Ezekiel 18:23.

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? – Ezekiel 18:23

For a challenging read see: http://kylearoberts.com/wordpress/?p=430

We just celebrated Resurrection Sunday and Christ’s conquering of death.  I believe it is crucial that we be certain as Christ-followers that we do not now turn around and glorify death.  Worship leaders will set the tone of gathered worship through the songs we select and the timbre of the tone of worship.

I went to bed last night a bit disturbed by the news video clips of what appears to be mindless celebration of death.  Put turbans and more meager street clothes on the people in some of the pictures, change the colors on the flags and it looked a bit like news video from the streets of Tehran on September 12, 2001.  Judging by the age group of those clips and the current climate I think some of that was no doubt political theater.  I woke up this morning to calls for photographs that would satisfy an appetite for proving death.  I understand we will get our wish for such gore later.

These scenes are significantly different from the somber reflection of some of the families of loved ones actually killed in the World Trade Center attacks. I can only imagine that they have been reminded of the painful stench of death.  No singing of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead will bring their loved ones back. Equally sobering is the fact of effect on those brave soldiers who carried out this mission and other attempts like it.  I am quickly reminded as well of our own music ministers who have sons and daughters serving their country in such dangerous times.

I pray you will find the Lord’s wisdom in preparing for Sunday worship.  As Rob Hewell again reminds us, “The Church’s faithful worship describes a new reality represented by the reign of God in Christ.”  May we sing, pray, preach, respond, and especially GO in light of this new reality!



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

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