This morning in Nashville at the Getty Music Sing Conference, I sat with Pastor Peter Sozi, the Pastor of the Capital Community Church in Kampala, Uganda. I asked him about how music is part of corporate worship in his country.
“Music is a part of the African culture,” he said. “African people are always singing. We sing at work. We sing in the fields when the harvest is coming in. We sing when a baby is born. We sing when someone dies. Singing is simply part of our lives.”
As he spoke, I thought to myself that connection people have with music in Africa is probably a lot closer to how music was part of the culture in Jesus’ day. Spend any time in the hymnbook of Ancient Israel – the book of Psalms – and you’ll quickly see that the Jewish culture was a culture of song. And dance. And shouting.
I think I still have a lot to learn about worship.
I remember the first time I was in a worship service where I saw people raising their hands as they sang. Helium hands, I called it back then. I’ve always had the spiritual gift of snarkiness.
I felt uncomfortable with what was happening around me. It seemed showy and pretentious. It seemed to lack reverence. Some of the swaying and shouting had what I perceived as a “look at me” quality to it. I kept my arms at my side and kept my head down, peeking out at the people around me who appeared to be in some kind of a trance.
Needless to say, I was not swept into the Spirit of the moment.
But as I read through the Bible, I think to myself “I probably would have been uncomfortable in the Temple or the Tabernacle, when the people of God gathered to worship Yahweh in Moses’ day. Or David’s day. I’m not sure how I would have felt about being urged to make joyful noises, or all the tambourine and dancing and the loud clashing cymbals.
If I had been around when the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to Israel in 1 Chronicles 13, when David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets, would I have thought to my self “this is a bit showy – these people need to tone it down a bit and show a little reverence?”
I don’t know. But as I talked with Pastor Peter this morning, I thought to myself “It’s pretty arrogant to expect that our worship in heaven will be more like what we do at Redeemer than like how they worship in Kampala. Or in the Dominican Republic. Or in an underground house church in China.
I’m not suggesting that we need to break out the tambourines and trumpets this Sunday. I don’t think it’s inappropriate for corporate worship to fit the cultural context in which it happens.
But this week as I have reflected on how my brothers and sisters around the world celebrate the goodness of God when they gather for corporate worship, or as I have seen in scripture how the men and women whose names are in the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11 shouted their praised to God in their day, I have found myself thinking that if I want to be prepared for corporate worship in heaven, I still have some work to do to get ready.
It’s Kid’s Small Group time!
Tomorrow night (that’s Thursday, Sept 21) Kids ages 0-12 will be gathering at the church at 5:45 for songs and games and fun. Parents will need to pick up their kids by 8:00. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Women’s retreat is right around the corner. October 6-8. Reserve your spot today by emailing Laura White (email@example.com) or Jen Gurney (firstname.lastname@example.org) and letting them know you’re in. Cost is $100. Don’t let the cost keep you from coming! We have some scholarship funds available.
Finally this week, we wanted to let you know that because of increased business, family and ministry demands, John Dietrich has requested a sabbatical this year from his full time engagement as a part of our elder board. While he won’t be involved in regular meetings and duties as an elder, we still see John as someone who is qualified and called to serve the church as an under shepherd of the flock of God. We are grateful for all the ways John and Merilee continue to actively serve us in the ongoing life of our church.
What’s the role of the Holy Spirit in reshaping the lives of Jesus’ followers? In Romans 8, Paul begins explaining how the Spirit of God works in the lives of His children. And we’ll look together at that subject this Sunday.
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!