Lift Us Up Where We Belong

An Appeal to Worship Leaders and Writers of Worship Songs

I’m a little envious, I have to admit, of the kind of ecstasy I see people experiencing around me in the worship time at church. It looks amazing. If it’s legal, I don’t mind getting some myself. But no, I would gladly concede, ecstasy is one emotion that’s appropriate for people drawing near to God, though arguably there might be times when abject penitence or a sort of shock might be equally apt.

But whatever the strong emotion, it isn’t how I arrive at church. Like many others, I have to rouse three or four bodies as sleepy as mine out of bed on a Sunday morning and make sure they get in the car at home and back out at church before the sermon’s over. It doesn’t induce a state of meditation, let alone ecstasy. And if my eyes are shutting, that might not be ecstasy either, though I don’t mind if people think so. Sometimes I just can’t keep them open.

We want to worship. Please remind us why it’s so right. What was it again, that God has done? Continue reading

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Law, Grace, and Sabbath for the Christian: An Open (Anonymous) Letter

Dusting off the old blog once again! In my teaching role, I have just been asked by a student for my Christian position on Sabbath observance for today. Since I’ve taken the trouble to state my position succinctly for her, perhaps it might start a conversation or stimulate your thinking on the topic if I record my reply here. Keep in mind that I’m from a rather free-church, not-very-hierarchical and not-very-liturgical Protestant tradition as an Australian Baptist.

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A Footnote to That Sermon on Worship Music

I didn’t really admit this when I prepared and presented that sermon on worship music a couple of months ago: https://firstthreequarters.wordpress.com/2015/07/19/a-sermon-on-music-in-worship-worshipping-in-song/

Worshipping in Song Prezi Sshot

https://prezi.com/czzhib-lcf3_/worshipping-in-song/

…but I am actually pretty worried about where worship music is in my kind of evangelical Protestant churches such as I see here in Australia. The following video from the US speaks in jest, though not too biting in my view, but it puts its finger on the problem:

That is pretty well the way most worship songs sound to me – very often four-chord pop flavourless enough to avoid offending most musical tastes, in fact, really quite ‘accessible’ even on the first listen, and with words that in themselves are hard to fault. They’re correct enough in some ways as to make me wonder why I usually feel completely unmoved, in fact, disinterested. Is the problem with me? Does my heart not respond because I don’t belong with these people? Because I’m not an authentic Christian? The people around me mostly look carried away in a kind of ecstasy that I don’t feel at any time, and am certainly not feeling at the time. The first song begins, and it’s straight into a kind of euphoric state. How can a person get so high emotionally so instantly? I’m not being sarcastic or cynical. I’m mystified. Whatever train the ecstatic worshippers around me are on, I clearly didn’t catch, or else I fell off the back of it. What is wrong with me?

I don’t know the answer to that. But I hope we aren’t happy to have the show go on when the playwright has left the building. It could, I think. The band can still play even while the ship sinks. For those who relate to weather analogies (that will whittle the readership down!), is it like a cumulonimbus (a thundercloud) whose big, showy head floats on when the big, dark cloud base that generated it has long evaporated away?

Spent desert thunderstom, from http://www.stormeffects.com/images/.

Spent desert thunderstorm, from http://www.stormeffects.com/images/.

Is it all “sound and fury, signifying nothing”? Why does it all feel so empty to me?

It might be partly me, but it isn’t entirely me, I don’t think. On my recent first-time visit to Papua New Guinea with some of our college students, we spent several church services with students and families at Christian Leaders’ Training College in Banz in the highlands. And for the first time in a long time, I felt sure that the worship I was hearing was real. Similar instruments, somewhat different songs, but somehow there was something far more authentic there that I’ve been missing.

That X factor. And it sure can’t be found on X Factor, either.

A Sermon on Music in Worship: “Worshipping in Song”

Some of this is more suggestive than detailed text, but it will give you some idea of what I spoke about at my home church, Kilsyth South Baptist Church in eastern Melbourne, this morning.

I feel I need to add a caveat. Speaking in church about worship is a bit like speaking in church about prayer. You’re normally going to have a sense of your own shortcomings in the same area. Certainly true for me on this occasion!

The link for the prezi online is: https://prezi.com/czzhib-lcf3_/worshipping-in-song/

If you’d like a downloaded form, the pdf may be found at http://1drv.ms/1e8GR9V. Here’s the embedded form:

I haven’t forgotten the creation book series…more to come on that.