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 ><>


Brian Paulson said...

I think one of the biggest reasons why my response to God in worship is sometimes weak is that I have let a "hard shell" form around my spirit in the week prior. Just as God crashed into history in the person of Jesus, does God use the joy of those leading in worship to crash through our "hard shells"? I think this has happened in my experience. When it does happen, I am then able to have a clearer vision of the objective truth and work of God.

Luke Hyder said...

I agree, Brian... I do think that authentically joyful leadership does get used by God to open people up and soften hard hearts... but I still think it's important for us to think about what words we are saying/singing during that time. Will it perhaps be more helpful in cracking through those hard shells for worshippers to be singing praises of God's objective goodness (that which can break through to them, and help well up the joy of the Lord within them), rather than merely subjective responses that speak of that joy without first contemplating the God who give us our joy?