Posted tagged ‘worship music’

Feeling My Worship Age

September 27, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              September 27, 2017

                                   

It was a bad sign! In the Sunday announcement sheet under informational items there was that blurb that was probably intended to be a forewarning of what was about to come!

“Ear plugs are available at the Information Booth for anyone who needs them.”

It’s a bad sign when they care about your hearing! When I was pastoring we cared also, but it was for those who had diminished hearing so they borrowed a hearing device that helped amplify the sound of the speaker or music. This was the other direction. This was: “We’re going to turn up the volume so much that you’re going to be thinking you’re standing by a jet engine on steroids! So you might want to put these in your ears!”

I’m 63 and I realize I’m sneaking up on crotchety! I’m becoming like a dear saintly lady from the church I pastored in Mason, Michigan. Grace Ankney was  a great lady who couldn’t hear squat! And she would let the speaker know that by yelling from her third row seat, “I can’t hear you!” I don’t remember what Grace’s spiritual gifts were, but she scored low on hospitality!

And here I was about to shout “I can’t hear myself!” But, of course, I couldn’t hear myself so I didn’t say it.

I realize the church I was attending last Sunday is designed for a younger crowd…soon to be younger deaf crowd…and there are all kinds of churches for all kinds of people. I’m a person of grace who is fairly tolerant about circumstances and situations. I remember the “worship wars” of the 1980’s when that period’s older generation fought hard against the new worship music that was settling upon the hearts of congregations. Our leadership council had several hours of discussion about it. We did planning retreats where we sought to figure out the direction we were going in worship, while being sensitive to those who liked it the way it had been…for fifty years!

I remember one young man from my church asking me if the lady who played the organ could take the parking brake off! On the other side, an older couple left for greener, hymnier, pastures because we had sung a couple of praise songs that had produced clapping, albeit Baptist clapping, which sounds kind of like the light patter of rain on the driveway.

And now I was that couple…longing for a calmer sanctuary of praise music. Just to be fair, the songs we sang last Sunday were all familiar to me. I knew the words to three of them, but since I couldn’t hear my own voice I never sang any of them. It wasn’t that I was being vain. Although people say I have a good voice I’m not infatuated by the sound of it. I just like to know that I can hear the words that I’m speaking or singing!

And now I’m starting to type kind of crotchety!

I’m a “has been” who is still being. This Sunday I’ll travel back out to the little congregation of twenty in a town forty-five minutes from where we live and give the Sunday message. We’ll sing some songs together in a sanctuary with great acoustics, and I’ll get a bag of fresh produce from a couple of farmers who bring in their excess each week. It will be totally different from my experience from last week where we had to park a few hundred yards away. This Sunday at Simla everyone can park right next to the building.

Perhaps that’s who I am now…a participant of a small congregation journeying together in a slow walk. At Simla this Sunday we won’t need ear plugs. Two sixth grade boys will take up the offering. There will be a Sunday bulletin, which we really won’t need because the order of worship is almost always the same. And after church people will grab a cup of weak coffee, a cookie, and stand around talking for a good 20 to 30 minutes.

That’s now where I feel at home, it’s where I sense the closeness of God and the struggles of his saints, and I’m okay with that!

What We Burn Incense To

July 26, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               July 26, 2016

                                  

In my years as a pastor I can identify a number of things that became sacred in the congregations I pastored. In one great church…Wait for it!…forks became revered! The morning after any church potluck or meal the “fork-keeper” would stop  by to count the forks. Kind of like a bank teller’s money drawer, if there was a discrepancy…if one or more were missing…there was hell to pay!

In another congregation filled with wonderful loving people, one of the most serious issues we dealt with in my fifteen years concerned the removal of the organ pipes. Let me clarify! These were fake organ pipes! Think painted long cardboard tubes! There were speakers in some of them for the electric organ we had at that time. When the sanctuary was renovated the fake pipes were repositioned behind the chancel area wall by our baptistry. It wasn’t so much that people couldn’t see the pipes anymore, but rather that they had been given to the church thirty years before by a family. They were seen as being a sacred memorial.

Sometimes people of God unknowingly, or perhaps on purpose, ease God out of the spotlight in order to worship something or someone else.

Someone? Yes, there are Christian personalities and celebrities that become the spiritual version of LeBron. Anything they say is written in stone as the Ten Suggestions. And let me point out that it isn’t necessarily the celebrated person’s fault. Mega-church pastors are put on pedestals because they lead mega-churches. And then when one of them has a problem that surfaces the “worshipers” are beside themselves.

There ARE those Christian personalities that are fine with people bowing to them. I was always amazed at how many people worshiped Reverend Ive with his flaunting wealth and opulent lifestyle. I could never quite connect the suffering servant image of Jesus with Reverend Ike’s matching diamond rings on a finger of each hand. In like manner I could never quite understand the flocking to see Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Was it really the will of God for their dog to have an air-conditioned dog house? I just didn’t get it!!!

But back to where we live! The people of God exalt unbelievable things. In some places there would be a greater uproar over missing Sunday morning donuts than there would be if the pastor decided not to give the sermon. One lady in a church I pastored told me that I shouldn’t let people know when we were having a guest speaker because attendance was always down. How did that make me feel? Not good! It was a sign to me that the lens on our congregational glasses needed to be wiped off a bit. I would say that almost every pastor does NOT want to be the only voice that his/her congregation is listening to.

I’ve seen mission organizations worshiped, youth group leaders bowed down to, church budgets deified, and technology praised.

It’s so easy!

I was reading in 2 Kings 18 this week about Hezekiah, King of Judah, getting rid of some of the pagan shrines, but he went even further than that. In verse 4 of that chapter it says, “He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. It was called Nebushtan.”

The snake that Moses had made, you know…way back when! Can you hear the comments? “But we’ve always had the snake!” “It just won’t be the same!” “Some of my most spiritual moments have been when I’ve burned some incense, prayed to Nebushtan, and had a deep sense of peace about things!”

The snake even had a name! I’ve just returned from a week of church camp. A number of kids, youth, and leaders are now thinking of Quaker Ridge as a sacred place of worship. They are thinking of those moments on Soldier’s Peak where they received communion.

I think of going to Green Lake, Wisconsin or Lake Louise Baptist Camp in Michigan. They are places that I burn incense to in my mind.

Hezekiah made the bold decision to get rid of Nebushtan. The snake had fulfilled its purpose generations before. It had long since become a distraction, a relic.

It makes me think about what happens in our places of worship today. What has become a distraction? What needs to be broken into pieces and moved to storage, or even to the curb? What have we given names to because they still grip our souls?