WORSHIP AS WITNESS IN TIMES OF “NO MATTER WHAT”

Jesus Loves You No Matter What  John’s wife’s car was broadsided as she pulled onto the highway.  Efforts by emergency personnel to revive her failed and she was pronounced dead at the regional hospital.  Thirty-seven years of marriage infused with shared ministry through music had come to an abrupt close.  How does anyone cope with such harsh reality?  On that Thursday afternoon a loving husband fought to wrap his mind around such shocking news, much less contend with the consequences of such a drastic life change for days ahead.  John and Jane were always together. How would music as ministry be continued?  This family known for their singing was missing its matriarch.  What could they do?  I am sure that in those first hours in John’s mind, especially as a heart attack survivor who had been nursed to health by sweet Jane, a nagging question had to be, “How would life go on?”

In the small city word travels fast.  A flood of friends, church members, as well as fellow ministers showed up at the hospital to pray, console, and express love to theis family.  Sometimes it is hard to grasp the dynamics of the ministry of presence, but it seems precisely in these kind of life stories that its grace-giving power is realized.  By Friday afternoon, when I first was able to speak with John, memorial service planning was underway, and he was able to focus to some degree on those details, though continuing in an obvious state of sustained overwhelming grief.  Here was real suffering, as a life partner wrestled with the ripe pain of human loss.  So many who had been ministered to by him now sought to find ways in which they could minister to him.  Many if not most of us found that words, other than scripture itself, simply failed, and in its deficit chose simply to remain speechless.

On Friday evening Jackie and Tommy, two fellow members of a state men’s ministering music group in which John sings, drove to John’s house to pay a ministry visit.  After their embraces and a period of just talking, the two ministry brothers gathered family and any others present in a circle of prayer.

Tommy and Jackie were bidding their good byes, and Jackie was, in fact, to the doorway when he turned back to the front room and asked John what song he would like to sing together.  Tommy testifies to being surprised by the question, if not a bit taken aback at the thought of singing in such a moment.  Does John want to sing at a time like this?  Perhaps another day, another time, ….maybe later.  To Tommy’s surprise, John requested the hymn, It Is Well with My Soul.  Tommy believes Jackie’s action was led of the Spirit, and so the singing began.  Tommy and Jackie at first, and then all joined the testimony of faith.

            When peace like a river attendeth my way
            When sorrows like sea billows roll

That would be this very moment.  Sorrows were overwhelming.  Response?

            Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
            “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Yes, this is our faith expressed in singing.  But now?  Does this include now?

Tommy says that the more the singing goes on in that living room the more John is swept into the singing.

It is well….it is well with my soul

They continue right on through the verses where Satan may buffet, trials may come, and Christ’s regard for our helpless estate cries out to speak in the present saga.  Tommy describes John’s participation as transformative.  “It was as if he (John) was drinking it in.”  There is a different countenance on his face.  He is rared back, eyes closed, and finds strength to join the harmonious strain of declaration.  The unspoken subtext calls Satan’s hand on this one.  “Where is your sting, death?  Where is your victory, grave?”  This is  music ministry of the first order.  This is worship in a time of “no matter what.”  Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well.”  This is obedience – a telling sign of genuine worship.

In a very different environment centuries earlier, another very small group worship setting also displayed power in a time of “no matter what.”  Paul and Silas were imprisoned.  It was midnight, and the service had been going on awhile as the two disciples prayed and sang, which had attracted the attention of the other prisoners and obviously was attractive even to Roman guards.  Christian author and executive director of the Christian Performing Arts Fellowship, Patrick Kavanaugh, notes that this must have been an effective service, “for the rest of Acts 16 includes an earthquake, the prisoners’ chains coming loose, and the jailer and his family coming to Christ and being baptized.”  He goes on to draw parallel to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, in which the giant of Doubting Castle threw companions, Christian and Hopeful, into prison.  Like the biblical characters, they prayed through the night, and “Christian realized that he had ‘a key in his bosom, called Promise,” that would “open any door in Doubting Castle.”  I believe we could rightly infer that Christian’s “key in his bosom” was a sense of the Spirit, and such is more akin to spiritual sensitivity and response than it is to musical approximation.

In this season of Lent, we make our way toward the cross as human beings.  Songs of the journey, including every aspect of our humanity, underscore the reminders given us through ashes on foreheads, and sermons about confessing.  Days of contemplation remind me that ministry through song does not depend on scores of singers or high decibel levels.  The musical duo, Paul & Silas, gave an effectual performance in that prison cell according to Acts 16, such that the jailer and his household came to faith in Christ.  In like spirit I believe Jackie sensed a “key in his bosom” and acted in obedience to lead the song that would engage in worship in a time of “no matter what” in a living room in Tennessee.

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

2 Comments on “WORSHIP AS WITNESS IN TIMES OF “NO MATTER WHAT””

  1. Alan Sumner Says:

    You are so right, Paul. I. too, have a wife that I share life and ministry with and have grown to depend on. In the waning days I have wondered and voiced to others on occasion, “how in the world does one go on from this kind of tragedy and heartache?”; while in the back of my mind knowing that this kind of peace “which passes all understanding” can only come from our Lord Jesus and that especially when it is most needed. I am so grateful for the fellowship of brothers and sisters we enjoy but more so I am grateful for the song in our heart that I there “no matter what”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: