Participatory v. Performative Worship

Yesterday in church, we had two harmonica players

a cajon player and a potential fourth vocalist

Join us up on the stage,

simply because they took the initiative to step up.

At Beer & Hymns we have a room packed full of people

overpowering even our instruments,

except for maybe the pianist and the cajon player.

They shake shakers and play tambourines,

and its all so wonderful.

Of course, there are still a chords and keys,

time signatures and words,

but the semblance of structure

simply gives direction to the holy chaos,

it is a funnel, not a wall.

That is the challenge: to organize programs in such a way

that they invite and welcome everyone in,

so that all can join in the fun,

creating wonderful music together

before God and one another.

Hallelujah, amen!

 

 

 

 

Your First Love

I have a nasty habit of getting really busy. I can do a billion things, but neglect even ignore those I love and love me. In Revelation 2:4, God reminds us that there are times where we do many good things but forget our first love. Let us return to them now. And let us also return to God, who “while we were still sinners, died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Gone Rogue

I’ve seen it happen over and over again. A person becomes disenchanted with Christianity while still holding on with Christ. Not uncommon. Actually understandable. The breakdown occurs when we separate from the church body and then have to create our own way of maintaining our spirituality apart from it. Many times this leads to new pseudo-churches, even new denominations. It leads to division and this is unfortunate.

We must hold together to remain stronger. We must work out our differences. We cannot do this thing alone. Yes, by no means approach the Word blindly. Yes, admit and explore where you come into conflict with the norm. These are healthy and good things to do. But stay connected. A person can wander into the desert and live, even gain a following, but can they thrive? Do they have the resources to empower others to do so as well?

Good questions to ponder. We must always strive for connection, seeking paths that connect us to each other and to God. When we are planted, we grow. Even if the community is alternative, that is fine and good. Just find community and thrive.

Testify!

She stood up in front of the congregation and said,

“I shouldn’t even be here today

I’ve had seizures that limit my ability to walk

but here I am standing in front of you.

It’s all thanks to God.”

Then she sang “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

Next it was a lady in a wheelchair,

who testified to the necessity of Jesus,

“turn to him before it’s too late.”

Pretty soon it was everyone,

black and white, male and female, young and old

All preaching their own sermonette

Because the Spirit was flowing

and the gateway to the pulpit was open

My friends, do not quench the Spirit

Allow Him to flow freely through you,

to share both your gifts and your story,

so all might be empowered to do the same.

The altar call is sounded,

who will stand?

Jonah 4

You may or may not be familiar with the life of Jonah.

Jonah was a prophet way back when. God tells him to go to a place to Ninevah to preach to the people there, that they would stop doing all the bad stuff they were doing and instead do good. Jonah receives his mission and runs away, taking the soonest ship to the furthest town. En route, he hits a storm and, in a moment of conviction, asks the crew to throw him overboard. Not knowing what else to do, they do just that. Jonah is swallowed by the sea creature a la Pinocchio and spends three days in the belly of the beast. At that point, he has a change of heart, asks God for a hand out, and God does just that. The creature spits him out and he high-tails it over to Ninevah to ask them also to turn their lives around. In no short time, they do.

And all ends happily ever after, right? I wish. No. Many retellings of Jonah’s life end there, but his life extends to another chapter. In this chapter, he is sitting on a hill looking over the just-saved city of Ninevah, hoping that God will change His mind and blow it up.¬†“Please, Lord, isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster. And now, Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live,” says the prophet.¬†Despite all that Jonah has been through, he still wants the Ninevites to die and for God to take him with them.

Fortunately, God doesn’t grant Jonah’s request. Instead, he lets Jonah sit in the hot sun for a good, long while until Jonah is about to faint. Then, He grows up a plant to cover Jonah’s head. Jonah loves his plant because the comfort it provides him. God allows him a moment of solace than kills the plant.

Jonah flips out. When God asks him if his anger is justified, Jonah is 1200% sure that it is. At this, God asks a follow-up question, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in the night and perished in the night. But may I not care about the great city of Ninevah, which has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?” With that, God drops the mic and Jonah’s story ends there. We don’t know how he responded. In truth, we don’t need to. This is God’s question to us. We all have plants in our lives, things we put in priority over the people all around us. Are we brave enough to let them go and selfless enough to see the needs of others, even if those needs belong to those we don’t see eye to eye with?

The challenge is simple. God is waiting for the answer. Don’t be a Jonah. Answer the call.

Stained Glass

People are funny and people in the church are no exception.

We all have our unconscious lists of sinners and saints, people that seemingly can do no wrong and people that seemingly can do no right.

But in the end we’re all just people and this has been true ever since the first person showed up on Earth.

From Adam to David to Paul to Aaron, we’re all broken pieces of glass put together by God into this collective masterwork known as the fellowship of believers.

Let us lay our perceptions down and embrace the collective soul, for we are all saints and sinners whose sole redemption is God.