life in the suture zone...

In the earthquake faults between tectonic plates, the suture zone is the in between place where they meet. I find in that a metaphor for the times in which we live... and invite your conversation in the suture zone.

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Location: Bakersfield, CA, United States

... a struggling, but mostly joyful, apprentice of Jesus.

Friday, April 29, 2005

there has to be a choir...

My daughter is taking a class for her Contemporary Christian Ministries major called Music in the Church. She called me yesterday to see what ideas and resources I could offer. Frustration oozed through her words as she described her final project/paper for the class, not because of the work, but because of the parameters she was given within which the work must be accomplished.

Part of the task is preparing a worship service thematically, choosing songs, sermon title, readings, etc. Not a bad project at first glance. Perhaps this conversation related to me by my daughter (and probably quite paraphrased by me) will serve to illustrate the problem:

“I want you to prepare this service, and I want you to include a choir in the service.”

“What if we don’t have choirs in our churches?”

“I still want there to be a choir.”

“What if my particular church has a thing against choirs?”

“I still want there to be a choir. And I want you to use a choral piece, not just a song that the congregation would sing. And using the reasons I gave you for using and not using particular songs, I want you to tell me why you would use the songs you choose and why you would leave some others out.”

Funny thing is, this particular instructor has been touting how this is to be a non-denominational worship approach, either liturgical or non-liturgical, and yet she does not allow flexibility beyond what she (the instructor) imagines as the ideal. She has very precisely and narrowly defined worship and carefully circumscribed the "proper" worship forms and theology. Imagination is out the window with the other "garbage".

I call it worship in a can. Or a box.

And it illustrates a problem that we all face that goes far beyond just worship. We define the world by our imaginings of it. Worse, our imaginings become the canon by which we judge the actions and directions of others. We say it's God, but it's not. It's us. It's our failure of imagination.

God's imagination however is not limited by ours. Nor are the limits of his work defined by our expectations. In fact, my greatest hope is that God is working in me in spite of my mistaken apprehensions of what needs to be done or how it should be done. And he's doing exactly the same thing in another person of faith somewhere who has a much different picture of what God is doing than what I believe.

Part of this failure of imagination is being too focused on what is immediately near. The older I get, the more credence I give to the story of the seven blind men of Hindustan, who, each having hold of a different part of an elephant, are convinced they know what they are dealing with. How appropriate for our time.

Personally, I’m glad to see the Holy Spirit working in all kinds of ways. IMHO, the more the better. Somehow or another, we just have to stop putting God (and each other) in a box. My great confidence is that God can work in all times, in all circumstances, in all paradigms, in all ages, and especially when we find ourselves living in the suture zone where nothing is settled or normal.

Do I believe he is leading believers in a certain direction to accomplish the in-breaking kingdom? Yes, generally speaking (do you like my specificity here?). Do I believe things are going to coalesce down the line? Yes, in a somewhat diverse way (do you like the tongue-in-cheek way I put that?), but probably long after I depart this mortal frame. In the meantime, pursue the work you are given and empowered to do by the Holy Spirit. And leave everyone else alone. God is quite capable of multi-tasking and he is quite creative in how he interacts with incredibly diverse people.

I'm for imagination run wild! Sounds dangerous, doesn't it?

Like I said in an earlier post. He just won’t stay in the box. Why don't we stop trying to force his people into one as well?

By the way, this isn’t about choirs. I happen to like them. Anyone who really knows me knows that. I just don’t think handcuffs hidden behind our backs are an appropriate way to approach either God or his people.

Canned worship? Sheesh! Somebody grab a can opener!!! (Do I really have to have a choir?)

Grace and peace!



Blogger miller said...


pretty much everyone in the simple church movement is beginning to say that its going to take a pretty massive plurality of expressions to see the Kingdom really explode in N.A.

good thoughts...

also, tell your daughter that if the prof. wants garbage, give her garbage... there is lots to be learned even in conforming for a moment.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Marshall said...

"What we see depends on what we are prepared to see...what we understand depends on what we already understand." --literature critic Michael Palencia-Roth.

5:12 PM  

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