Friday, 27 August 2010

Music or Worship?

As promised, I am now turning my thoughts to Worship. What does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth? Whilst sung worship is certainly not all encompassing this is what I shall focus on, we shall simply ignore the fact that our whole life is meant to be one act of continual worship to the God who saves us.

Sung worship comes in many forms, it can be accompanied or not, melancholic or upbeat, contemporary or traditional. This is not what truly matters, rather the outward sound is simply a way to convey praises of a grateful heart. It is when this fails that questions need to be asked. Recently, in a church service, the worship started off with lively choruses. I have no problem with this provided, as always, the words are theologically correct and the congregation can sing them as truth. However when this phase of worship ended and a more contemplative mood began, the music becoming slower with more words, all of the elders sat down and sung no more.

I can not speak for there heart but from where I sat it appeared as if they were only worshiping when the music was lively. If someone can only worship in this way, and not when the music is softer or the words repeated less, then they must ask themselves whether their worship was true in the first place.

Music itself possesses the ability to effect our emotions. Simply turn on 'sad' music and you will start to feel melancholy, or turn on something upbeat, fast with a jaunty melody and your mode will start to lift. This is a gift from God and we should use it to praise him, with the harp and lyre and trumpet. However we must guard our heart that our worship be true. That we don't simply get swept along by the music, and that our peace stems from God rather than something intrinsic in the music. Think on the words that you sing, are they true? Don't listen to the pleasant sound, that is God's to hear but rather contemplate the words that you sing, and let the worship live in your heart.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Loneliness in New York

America, the same yet so, so different. I've been here for just over a week and a half now and am still getting used to the shear size of everything. I spent a week in Philadelphia before heading up to New York from whence I have just returned. Whether the cities are a fair reflection of the country or not I don't know, but what I have seen is big and loud, neon lights and advertising boards everywhere announcing the presence of shops and the next must have accessory.

The Church I went to on Sunday was similar. As I walked through the doors in the middle of Manhattan, I was immediately greeted by several ushers, each wearing matching uniforms and was directed to the queue for seats (yes you hear me right, in this 3000 seater former theater there
was a queue for seats). As I was shown to my seat the 'show' began the curtains of the stage were drawn back and the pulpit moved to the front accompanied by a 100 piece choir and, for want of a better word, a jazz band.

The music was lively with lots of repeated phrases and jumping around, the Pastors and Elders on the stage were singing enthusiastically. However, after these first few songs the music became more contemplative, with 'deeper' lyrics. At this point all of the elders sat down and
became silent. No longer praising God with music, as soon as it lost it's driving tempo. This point could (and probably will) become a whole nother post. What I wanted to talk about was the message from the sermon.

Loneliness: That desire within all of us to be close to those around us. Whilst not agreeing with everything that was said I'd like to summarise what I got out of the sermon.

1) Everyone will/does feel lonely at some point in their life.
2) This loneliness can not be filled by the latest fade or even by a Husband/Wife.
3) We are lonely for God.
4) Loneliness should drive us to share the Gospel.

To expand slightly, loneliness is our realisation that things are not right. Even among such a vast swath of humanity as New York people are lonely, they feel isolated even as they bump into those around them. We were created to be in a relationship, with the perfect creator. Our desire for community can not be satisfied by fellowship (although this is necessary to build up the body of Christ) but only by being grafted in to the Triune togetherness of God. The fact that we are entering this relationship by Jesus' blood on the cross gives us a sure and certain hope that one day we will feel lonely no more, that 'on that day all pain and suffering will cease'. It should also inspire compassion for those around us, that without the Gospel there loneliness can never leave them.

Some things that were said that I don't really agree with:
1) God is lonely for us.
2) Before the fall there was no loneliness.

For a start these two points contradict each other, the second is tantamount to saying that loneliness is part of the curse of the fallen world and is thus bad, yet by the first God possesses this characteristic. To directly contradict the second point, we are told in
Genesis, that God saw it was 'not good for man to be alone', which to me at least suggests that loneliness was around before the fall. My problem with the first point is more subtle. Namely, does God's 'need' for us diminish his omnipotence, that is does his desire to be with us affect his righteousness or is he 'made less' when people continue to sin. I'm not saying that he doesn't desire all men to be saved but that this desire is formed from love and compassion rather than loneliness.

If anyone has actually read this far than thank you, 'perseverance builds character' to quote somewhere probably out of context. Any thoughts would be much appreciated to help me get this entirely straight in my head.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

All alone: A poem

All alone I sit
Darkness surrounding
Cut off from the light
Impurity growing

“Help me Lord” I cry
Heavy hearted, grieving
Cleanse anew my robes
Restoring, healing

Out reached a hand
Strongly caring
My once dark prison
Cover removing

I gasp in wonder
Staring, seeing
For all around me
Lights a-gleaming

On many pedestals
Far and near in
Sit lamps uncovered
Glowing, shinning

But near and far out
Lights a covering
Bowls upon some sit
Still, un-moving

I, alone no more
Standing, rejoicing
Let my own light shine
Burning, praising

Home: A poem

In the desert a voice is calling
Faint and soft it comes to me
Loud the sound of world surrounding
“Come home”, a faint yet persistent plea.

I look and see, yet in the distance
A tree, a great and glorious sight
And all around me falls a silence
“Come home”, a voice that’s clear and bright.

“Me?” I say surprised and startled
Yet my feet they draw me near
“But I’m a sinner, torn and troubled”
Maybe I doth simple mishear.

“You!” the thunderous voice resounded
“See upon the tree he hung”
“My son delivered to death unbounded”
“That your misdeeds be none.”

With mournful glee I run unhindered
Through the desert round about
A sentence, just, has been rescinded
“Coming home”, I cry and shout.