"That was a great service" Joe said ... meaning good contemporary music (for a bunch of amateurs), with 1/3rd of the congregation singing well, another 1/3rd mumbling their way through the words, and 1/3rd stoically waiting for it all to end.
It almost makes me cry sometimes.
So now it's after the service and we have Jesus sitting down for pint of Guinness with Joe. After all, Jesus is with us all the time, and I presume he'd drink Guinness, so why not?
"So Joe, I notice you were rather reserved in the service. I didn't quite catch your voice during the singing"
"uh .. .yeah, I guess so."
"Why is that now? I mean, I know why, because I know you inside-out after all. That omniscient thing and so forth. But you tell me how you see it, because I'm not sure you know yourself."
"Well ... I guess I'm a little embarrassed singing out loud like that. I'm not a really into this extrovert stuff. And, I mean, the words are not quite what one would normally say in front of others ... that sort of language is personal-like, something for me alone."
"Ah, I see. I suppose that's also why you don't talk about me at work. Not like when you were carrying on during the rugby match yesterday (yes, I was there too). By the way, how's your voice today? Still sore?"
"Ah, well, ..."
"Its OK, sorry to make you feel awkward ... well, actually I'm not sorry. But anyway, back to this church worship stuff. I know you know (theoretically) that it's only one small aspect of a life of worship, but I actually think it's really important! Music is my gift to connect your heart and your brain, and my gift to let you be expressive. Why do you hold back?"
"Oh Jesus, come on! I mean, I was in church, wasn't I? I came. I didn't leave early. I listened to the sermon. It's not like I'm ignoring you. Besides, I've got a voice like a frog."
"Yes, I know, I gave it to you. Well me and the rugby. And I know you were in church. I was too. But tell me, if you listened to the sermon, what was last week's about? Or this week's, for that matter?"
"Huh? Um ... Ah ..."
"Yeah, thought that'd be the response. I know you don't remember <sigh>. That's the problem with sermons ... words that flow from speaker to listener and then keep on going. It sort of misses what I meant about being a disciple ... you learn then do then learn then do then learn then do ....! When you engage you give a reality to the theoretical. Until you express what you know there's not much more reality there than a Leprechaun. So, anyway, have you done much expression recently?"
So what's the big deal about this singing?
Music is one of the most unrecognised elements of our very being - speaking of music in the widest possible sense. Paintings have music, poetry has music, and sound has music. Music is that beautiful thing that marries the feelings we can't articulate with our thoughts that are sterile, and produces beautiful offspring.
In church we gather to bridge our heart and mind to express the worthiness of God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Our heart carries the emotion, our mind brings the intellect, our strength gives reality to our expression, and our soul unifies it in relationship with Jesus. And we do this together, so that we build the relationship with each other ... with others we would not normally spend time with, but with whom we share a common reality.
The expression does not need to be conventional music; it can involve our body, it can engage with other art forms. But the music of song is the most powerful way that allows all to join in a collective expression of worship.
And thus we make a start on the greatest two commandments; love the Lord our God, and love each other. And these commandments are for us, not because God needs it.
Its all about relationship.
How could relationship ever survive without expression?
"Ok, I know, remember the omniscient thing? Moving on ... or back as it may be: Worship. Tell me, what do you think of me? I really want to know."
"You know what I think of you Jesus, you're omniscient."
"Ah, now you sound like all those husbands whose wives complain that they never say 'I love you'. It also reminds me of that fish breakfast I had with Peter ... he also tried that angle on me."
"Oh go look it up another time. Joe, let me tell you a little secret. I don't want you to tell me what you think for my benefit, I want you to do it for YOU, and for those around you. I'm the omnipotent and all that, I don't NEED anything, I'm the word that was before and will always be, I'm humble!"
"Humble! I'm everything and I'm humble. Because being humble means being no more than you are, and no less than you are. Since I AM, no more and no less, I am humble. But you? Where's your humility?"
"Oh good grief, is that the extent of your vocabulary? When you keep quiet in singing worship, you're saying I'm not worth the effort. When you don't acknowledge me with all your mind, body, soul, and strength, you're effectively claiming for yourself something of me. You're saying to me that you're more than I know you to be. You're trying to get an edge over ME. You're trying to say you're in charge. That I am not all important. That's not humble. That's stupid."
"But, but ... what's so special about making a fool of myself while singing songs? It's not like it's a big event. Only lasts twenty minutes or so, and anyway, it's Sunday morning and I'm tired, and nobody notices what I'm doing"
"Hmm, so birth lasts a few hours, getting married takes even less, and sex only lasts a short while if you're lucky. Even death is a matter of seconds! Does that make them unimportant? Don't you tell me about the value of time, I made time, I walk through time, time is not what's important. And by the way, people ARE affected by what you do! If you don't worship, your neighbour shrinks back too, so you're hurting them. It's only the one's deeply in love with me who actually keep the true church worship going."
"Why are you getting so steamed up about this?"
"Because it damages YOU, you twit. Don't you see, every time you pass on an opportunity to EXPRESS worship, you lose an opportunity to be who you were made to be. And every time you choose to not express yourself, you choose to hide a reality from yourself and from others. You hold back others! Anyway, making a fool of yourself is not something you'd have to put much effort into.
Listen: there's two ways to approach worship. One way is to start with what you know in your heart to be real -- draw on those all-too-rare moments when your eyes were really open and you experienced me being right there. And from there you tell your mind to get it's act into gear and choose to put some thoughtful expression to the heart's feelings. Music is great for that, it adds a rich meaning of words. The other option is to start in the mind; take what you KNOW is the Truth, not what you'd like to be the truth. Then tell your heart to stop being so afraid of emotion and get with it. Music's great, because it catches the heart in a net of melody and merges it with your mind. It doesn't matter where you start. It only matters where you end ... in expression! Stop short of that and you may as well have never begun.
Forget about what others think of you. It's me, the omnipotent one and all that, who is standing right there in your face. Get it?"