Every week in churches all across the world, people gather under the banner of Jesus and go through the motions of congregational worship. For some it’s a blessing; for others it’s a chance to critique. Some people disengage all together, and some people just disengage their brains and jack up their emotions.
What are we actually doing and why are we doing it? Is there a right way? Is there a better way?
I grew up in a musical family, or perhaps a better way to say it, I was trapped in a musical Alcatraz with the cast of Hello, Dolly! My father loved music. He couldn’t help it. I actually think that if you pricked him with a pin, he would bleed the score to either a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical or a John W. Peterson cantata.
On more occasions than I care to remember, my day would begin with my father bursting through my bedroom door singing and miming either “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” or “Good Morning” from Singing in the Rain. Memories still flood my mind of spritely jazz hands, little kicks, a booming bass voice, and a huge smile.
My father also loved Jesus and the church so, naturally, the passions collided perfectly on Sundays when he would get up to lead the worship in the morning and evening service.
"The expulsion of hymns from a church can occur either imperceptibly over time or instantaneously, but in many churches they are fading away or already gone. In this context, I propose a way for those who love the hymns of the faith to preserve them. We can save our beloved hymns by reading and pondering them as devotional poems." - Leland Ryken
Suppose I told you I have a new car for you. And not just any car: it’s the car you’ve always dreamed of owning, in just the color you imagined it would be. Suppose I hand you the keys and tell you to take it for a spin. I think we all would agree that this would give you a kind of joy.
Now, change illustrations. Suppose you are fighting cancer. It’s a particularly aggressive cancer, with a remote chance of your survival. The treatment is brutal, with drugs and radiation that place you on the verge of death. And now the doctor walks into the room with a clipboard to deliver the news: the cancer is gone. It is not hard to imagine that you might cry. But who would doubt that those tears are tears of joy?
In both examples, the response to good news is joy, yet these joys are quite distinguishable from each other. For someone to hear that his cancer is gone and respond as though he just won a new car would indicate he is oblivious to the stakes of his situation. We don’t doubt that he is happy; we might rightly doubt that he fully understands the magnitude of both the threat he faced and the good news he has received.