Wednesday, February 18, 2009

it's still not all about me!

I'm still processing yet another "nugget" of wisdom that I gleaned from Marva Dawn during her presentation entitled "Worship that Ministers to the Afflicted" at the Worship Symposium last month.

Last post I discussed her thoughts on the difference between the "reality" of a person's situation and the "truth" of how God may be working in that situation.

This week I'm still thinking about another dichotomy (ooo, big word... just means we're talking about two things) she described... the objective verses the subjective.

This could mean a lot of things... so let me try to narrow it down a bit. Within the context of a discussion of worship (more specifically: the planning and leading of worship services)... Marva Dawn was pointing out the importance of being aware of our language and expression in worship, and taking note of when the words we are saying or singing are "objective"--meaning they point-to, praise, affirm and testify to the OJECTIVE TRUTH of God--or when those words are "subjective"--meaning they express our give voice to our (individual or corporate) SUBJECTIVE RESPONSE or reaction to God.

I found myself connecting this in my mind with what Mark Altrogge had said during that same weekend about worship consisting of (1) meditation on God and (2) our response.

Marva affirmed that both these dimensions--the objective and the subjective--are vital to our corporate worship life. However, she cautioned that we keep ourselves as worship planners and leaders aware of the fact that in the gathered body of God's worshipping Church, every individuals subjective response may be different, depending on their context and situation.

She gave the example of a worship leader at a conference she attend who said a lot of things before the group began to sing together trying to ramp them up... "come on, people, get excited!" Marva's response was "I don't know about you, but I like to have something to get excited about."

I believe an additional caution that Marva is making is to not assume that everyone is going to arrive at our corporate worship gatherings happy and ready to be "excited" about God. For many, the weights of the world and of their lives are heavy on their shoulders when they come... and it takes an encounter with the living God to lift those weights off their shoulders so their hearts can be lifted freely in worshipful response. I sure appreciated the reminder... worship is not about me... It's about God!

I think the point is well made that the balance of the "objective" vs. the "subjective" in our worship should probably lean more heavily toward the "objective"--affirming, praising, testifying to and glorifying God for the Truth of who God is and what God has done for us. Especially at the beginning of our times of worship together.

Then we can truly have--as the gathered, worshipping people of God--an encounter with God to which our responses (both corporate and individual) can be honest and authentic.

What do you think? We sure tend to love our subjective expressions... there are lots of songs that are just that. Can we be better about the ways we use them? Are there better choices we can make to prepare ourselves for such responses?

Grace and peace to you,
luke ><>

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

More Sympo 2009 nuggets

They're like the "dino-nuggets" we used to serve during family camp at Calvin Crest... just less chicken and more theological-speak. Same crispy-golden crust, though. :)

I'll be posting and processing thoughts from my time at the Calvin Symposium on Worship last week for awhile, so keep checking back for the occasional "nugget", and keep posting comments... the interaction is appreciated!

One of the things I enjoy most about attending the Symposium every year is making connections between things I hear from one speaker or during one worship service and another. This year was not without those connections.

Marva Dawn, during her session on "Worship that Ministers to the Afflicted" discussed two pairs of concepts that are important to keep in mind when planning worship for or interacting with folks who have deep concerns or afflictions in their lives. Both of which connected with something else I had encountered in other sessions.

I'll explore the second in a later post, but the first of these two concepts she discussed was the importance of keeping in mind the difference between the "reality" of a person's situation and the "truth" of what God can do with/in them. A person with a physical handicap, for example, has to live with the "reality" of their lost limb or debilitating condition, which very well may limit their abilities to do certain things. However, that does not deny the "truth" of what God can and will do through other gifts that they have. The implication being that if we only focus on the limitations of people with disabilities (constantly praying that God would heal or "fix" them, for example) we are missing out on the beautiful people they are and how God can use them now, as they are.

In one story example, she described a quadriplegic friend's response to those who keep offering to get him out of his wheel-chair with their prayers... he likes to reply, "That's too bad, God has gone a lot of good work in that chair."

We as Christians have to be in the practice of looking deeper than merely the surface level in people. And not just in people with obvious afflictions. Everyone has something going on under the surface of their lives that reveals both their deeper problems as well as their deeper potentials.

We have to go beyond the outer "text" to perceive the "subtext" in people's lives, as Craig Barnes reminded us in his session "Moving from Text to Subtext." As preachers, writers, poets, artists, storytellers... our calling is to help the subtext of Scripture and what the Holy Spirit is doing below the surface all around us speak powerfully into the subtexts of our own lives and the lives of others around us.

Yet again my childhood favorite, Transformers, was correct... there is "more than meets the eye."

God's grace to you,
luke <><

(audio files for the sessions referred to above, and others, will be available for free download in the coming months at