I got to participate in our church’s Easter choir last month. It was awesome on multiple levels, at least because it gave me the chance to stretch some old muscles. But also it was exciting because it was Easter. Christmas would be wonderful, too, of course. And I love show choir. But Easter is special. It’s the biggest, most important day of the year. Or, it should be. That’s a thought for another time.
Anyway, so Easter comes and we are singing in both services. And while we were doing the congregational worship, I made an effort to engage in intentional whole-being praise (as Jesus commanded us, btw) not just a recitative declaration because I was standing on a stage, rather than in the anonymity of the crowd.
Sometimes I got distracted, though. Because it is distracting to look out on 150 people and see that maybe 130 of them look like they’d rather be anywhere but there.
And, by the way, this was Easter. We’re singing lyrics such as:
No guilt in life, no fear in death/this is the power of Christ in me
No power of hell, no scheme of man/can ever pluck me from his hand
How sweet the sound of saving Grace: Christ died for me
Death is crushed to death, life is mine to live, won through your selfless love
And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me/for I am His, and He is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ
How do you sing that without cracking the smallest smile? Do you even believe it? Really?
“Oh, she’s being judgmental according to the outward appearance” and no, that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s not about having a particular posture or expression or specific reaction. But when I would glance at that crowd, to be blunt, it reminded me of my pre-salvation self. I was super serious, and making sure I looked serious was very important. Thank God I wasn’t like those Publicans on the other side of town with their smoke machines and belting solos, amirite? It was all about me
“But you can’t know people’s hearts just by observing their behavior.” That’s fair. But at the same time, there’s no piety in boredom. And you know the difference between being reserved and reverent, and just mouthing words in rhythm to some music. That’s what “mindless repetition” really is, whether a refrain is involved or not.
*gasp* Experiential dogma! Yeah, life is made up of experiences. Overcorrecting toward Gnosticism in our practice is just as big an error, y’all.
I’m reminded of a story from back in high school, some well-intentioned young man said that when he grew up and got married one day, he wanted to “make sure his wife knew that he respected her as a person, not as an object” so he wouldn’t actually sleep with her until they had been married a full year. And my reaction was, “Uh, that’s not marriage, dude.” And it’s kinda the same thing. Want to be careful not to praise God too much with your whole mind, heart, strength, and soul? Yeah, sure, you roll with that.
“Maybe they – all 150 people – were having a bad morning, maybe they recently had received heartbreaking news, had been up all night with a cranky baby (you know I am sympathetic to that) or any other number of reasons why they just weren’t all that into Easter(!) this particular year.” Yeah, that’s fair. At the same time, Psalm 63 says,
“I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will life up my hands…my mouth will praise you with joyful lips…for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
And David wrote that while hiding in the wilderness, not while he was comfortable in a palace. I’m just saying.
The message on Easter Sunday was from 1 Corinthians, where Paul writes that if the Resurrection wasn’t true, then we (Christians) are the most pitiful people in all of history. BUT – the implication is – the Resurrection IS true, so therefore there shouldn’t any pitifulness about us. Victory! Life! Gladness! JOY!
The Fruit of the Spirit is joy, springing directly out of the assurance of our salvation, not out of our circumstances. Point is, if someone is chronically disengaged intellectually and emotionally in corporate worship – if you’re bored – maybe it’s time for some self-reflection about who or what is really being worshipped.