Thursday, November 04, 2004

Styles of Musical Worship
Robert Austell, pastor of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church (USA), in Charlotte, NC, and good friend of mine (this makes him "kith"!), sent me this. I think Kith & Kin would find it interesting and edifying.

This is something I wrote to a "worship task force" at FPC-Orlando in relation to their discussions on "traditional" and "contemporary" worship styles. ~Robert

"God's Refrigerator Door"

I have three girls, ages 2, 4, and 6. This morning, I came downstairs to find the two older girls drawing pictures for me. As I came close, the 4-year-old said, "Daddy, I drew this for you; isn't it good?" I said, "Abby, it's beautiful; thank you so much for drawing that for me." The 6-year-old promptly said, "Look at mine; I drew this for you. Don't you think it's prettier than hers?" I said, "Walker, I see that you've used lots of colors. It is beautiful; but I like both pictures." Walker said, "But she's only 4; I draw better than her." Abby was beginning to get a little rattled and reached over and grabbed Walker's picture, which made Walker hit her and begin to cry.

Where did things go so wrong?? After all, I didn't love either of their pictures because they were amazing works of art created by my child-prodigies. I loved them... LOVED THEM... because my two little girls had offered me something from their heart. Truthfully, they both are good at drawing, and appropriately so for their ages. But, we're still talking about a crayon-colored flower with four lop-sided petals and the 6-year-old's typical stick person with her ever-present background objects: a sun, a rainbow, and a cross. What disappointed me was that out of striving with each other that neither received the love I returned to them for such a heartfelt gift.

Because I teach and work with numerous churches, pastors, and musicians who are thinking through the theology of worship (or in the trenches of a "worship war"), I see this very scene played out again and again. A choir member, a guitarist, a man with a music degree, someone who earns a living playing by ear.... in their own way they offer up heartfelt praise and lead others in doing the same. Then they start to compare their work. "Mine is better than hers; theirs gets people too excited; theirs puts people to sleep; that isn't real music; that isn't relevant music." And I have to think God is disappointed, both at his childrens' striving and at the missed opportunity to bask in His pleasure at their offering. And surely to the Creator who made the stars and planets, who can hear the deepest rumble of a planet turning on its axis and the fast-as-light crescendo of a star going super-nova, our childish little compositions and ditties do not please him because of their extraordinary cleverness, but because he sticks them up on the refrigerator doors of heaven and tells the angels, "My child Robert drew that one for me."

May God give us humble hearts and ears to hear.

No comments: