Thank heaven God is creative.
Did you ever wonder what it would be like if He wasn’t? And not only is He creative, but He made us all creative. If this weren’t so, we wouldn’t know color. We wouldn’t know beauty, or a melody, or what an idea was.
One thing I love about God giving us creativity is we have come up with so many different ways to worship Him. And the cool thing is, there’s no wrong way to do it, if you have a genuine heart. He doesn’t care what songs you sing or what you say or what symbols you use, as long as it’s real and you mean it. I’m reminded of the time I took communion on a spring break mission trip. It was impromptu, on the way home, in the van. The elements? A cheez-it and a swig of someone’s bottled fruit juice that we passed around.
Lately, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to worship God in vastly different environments.
Two weeks ago, invited by dear friends, I attended a choir rehearsal at a church where I was absolutely the whitest white person there. I sat in between my friends and sang gospel songs, going over them by rote, with no music, and actually very few words. Unlike other church choir rehearsals I’ve been in, where our noses are in the music and we work on diction and where to breath, this rehearsal was simply about praising God. I can’t describe the feeling of having my voice drowned out by a group of people who not only sounded great, but meant it. I was almost overwhelmed to tears with the sense of God’s presence in this community. And this was a choir rehearsal. It was so what I needed at the time. I had one word for my friend when she asked me what I thought: cathartic. They didn’t even care that I could’t attend the performance we were rehearsing for. It was an incredible experience.
Five days later, on the Wednesday before Easter, I attended a Seder at school. A local Rabbi led the meal and about 25 faculty and students attended. The Seder (Hebrew for “order”) is the Jewish feast that marks the beginning of Passover. There is very specific food and drink that is presented, some as symbols, and some to eat. Participants read from a text called the Haggadah. In it is the story of the Passover and the exodus from Egypt, along with prayers and songs. It was really humbling and insightful to be a part of this service. I love the tradition of Jewish culture, how old everything is. I really value the history, and it definitely puts Christianity in a more tangible and savory context. But that’s a whole other post…
On Good Friday, I attended a Tenebrae Service at the church I normally go to. (Tenebrae is Latin for shadow.) It was very dark, somber, quiet. I’m fortunate to know the man who led the service. His story alone is incredible and to be able to participate in this experience with him leading was quite impactful. He spoke slowly and his voice was fluid and resonant. He wasn’t afraid of silence. The music was stripped of its complexity, just acoustic guitar and voice. These are my favorite types of services because this is how I operate inside. Dark, somber, quiet. Processing. This service enabled people to simply process Jesus’ death. Good for the soul.
Yesterday for Easter, a friend invited me to her church for the sunrise service, free breakfast (amen) and the regular church service. I was (to steal a term from a dear friend) on the “strugglebus” emotionally and physically, so I didn’t mind getting lost in the extra mile of spectacle that an Easter service is. I hadn’t been to a service like this in a long time. A usual house band complete with piano, keyboard, AND organ (it was amusing to see an organist with an in-ear monitor), singers strewn across the front and a choir in the back, complete with the season’s best outfits, some even with hats. The pastor had that old school authoritative presence and in his sermon I realized he sounded just like Tommy Lee Jones. The atmosphere really was great and while I wasn’t feeling all “Praaaaaaise Jeezuz” I appreciated all those who were.
God is creative. And he knows that even some of the most creative people don’t feel creative sometimes, that’s why there is liturgy. Sometimes the uncreative get a burst of whimsy and need unorganization – that’s what repeating choruses are for. Sometimes we just need to be still. Sometimes we just need to be loud. Sometimes we don’t know what we need, and that’s okay too.
As long as it’s genuine, God is pleased.