WORSHIP IN AN AGE OF CONFUSION

confused-face2 Christian worship is suppose to be about Word and Table, engaging the faithful in singing, proclaiming, praying, fellowshipping, and sending out to baptize and make disciples. The pattern is ancient and contemporary, practiced in churches of different faith traditions, and of varying ethos through the years. Just think about all the surrounding circumstances of all those years; war, pestilence, death, birth, decline and renewal, dismay and elation. The steady repetition of worship and the accompanying song has been sung through seasons of greatest jubilation as well as deepest lament. In our own country we have experienced seasons of cultural acceptance and even meshing of church and culture whereby “going to church” was the right thing to do – the accepted norm. Then again there have been times when those who sought to worship faithfully have been culturally suspicioned either as “holy rollers” or as “cold ritualists.” Viewed as such, the faithful are dismissed as irrelevant. The wrestling match with cultural acceptance, rejection, or adaptation has always confronted the Church. In present day America churches are reacting to recent civil and cultural events in varying ways. Plenty has been and is being said about the SCOTUS decision in their redefinition of legal marriage, and the fallout as it effects various faith traditions. My address here is not about that decision or fallout directly, but rather regarding our direction in worship gatherings, and the need of the Church as it worships with fissures in the convictions of the faithful, either spoken or silent. How do we worship in an environment of confusion? Some of you may say, “What confusion?” as you are convinced beyond a doubt that your convictions are right, and thus you might desire the spirit of singing to be somewhat militant in reflecting your convictions. Certainly, within my own Southern Baptist denomination, there is little dissent from the traditionalist position. Likewise, however, within the ranks of other faith traditions there is a libertarian position with equal force of sentiment. Both sides use biblical reference as proof of correctness. What are you singing, worship leaders?

Worship sentiment varies widely anyway among the churches, especially in evangelical communities where week to week liturgy is not prescribed, and sentiment may largely follow the reaction that leaders have to real time happenings. If Facebook is any indicator last Sunday’s worship in many churches was dominated by reaction to the SCOTUS ruling. As I read on church websites and Facebook pages, post after post announcing, “Come to hear Pastor ________’s response to the SCOTUS ruling,” I could not help but wonder, “What songs will worship leaders ask their people to sing in those settings?” “What will be the spirit of the singing?” Divisions in the faith family seem accentuated in light of such strong opinions and the feelings that drive them. So what is the spirit of our singing in these seasons? Militant? Defiant? Forgiving? Loving? Confessional? Priestly?

I continue to be convinced that worship music can serve as an effective instrument (pun intended) of expression amidst the tensions inherent to Christian worship. There are many such tensions; transcendence and immanence, humility and boldness, cerebral and emotional, vertical and horizontal, traditional and contextual, already and not yet, to name a few. There is just something about music that helps us rise above the human logic of the tensions to simply sing the tensions with proper embrace of either side of such tensions. In other words, we can sing Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise and sing I Am a Friend of God in the same service and fully embrace the truth of each as well as the tensions inherent. Likewise, in light of recent developments in our country, I might propose singing of bold reminders of God’s sovereignty, His unfailing mercy, His command to love one another. Our singing of timeless texts with boldness that reaches beyond ourselves can aid our escape from the entrapment of how I see something (or feel about something) to Who God is, what He has done, is doing, and will do. Worship’s song must surely ever include the tone of ultimate triumphant of Christus Victor! Meanwhile, living in the not yet we must also sing so as to spur one another on to love and good deeds that our light will shine before men and point them to the Father. We are far too often given to stray from loving neighbor as self, building walls around us and our children instead. Let us be renewed as the faithful

My faith is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name

 

On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground is sinking sand

                        –Edward Mote (1834)

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

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