Monday, February 7, 2011

Vulnerable yet loved in our "permission-giving" church

You let me rest in fields

   of green grass.

   You lead me to streams

   of peaceful water,

    and you refresh my life. 

(Psalms 23)

Yesterday I tried something brave in worship. It helps, of course, that ours is a "permission-giving" church. By permission-giving I mean that the community owns an underlying grace that is more interested in authenticity than performance. Consequently, the pressure is off when offering an act of worship that comes from the heart.

So, a little background. This weekend, huddled around a small grave in a quiet cemetery, our family buried little Audrey Rose. The parents - my niece, Hannah, and her husband, Andrew - were surrounded by love (you can read about the event at Grief & Blessing). Hannah asked Rebekah to lead the service and me to sing "Jesus loves me this I know..."

I wanted a different take on the song, so I slowed the tempo and rearranged the music with a light rock lilt and contemporary guitar chords. Here it is if you want to try it:

D       Em7       D/F#
Jesus loves me this I know

G2                           D
For the Bible tells me so

D       D/C#    Bm   Bm/A
Little ones to Him  Belong

G2          D         Em7 A   D
We are weak but He is strong

D       D/F#      G2
Yes     Jesus    loves me

Bm    Bm/A  Em7        A
Yes  Jesus   Loves me

D     D/F#   G2
Yes Jesus Loves me

         D      A        D
The Bible tells me so

D    D/G     D      D/G

The next morning, Sunday, I was preparing for worship with Mark, our most excellent music director. We play guitar & piano duets - purely instrumental - while the elements are being served. I suggested "Jesus Loves Me", and sung my arrangement so he could get a feel for the interpretation.

"I think, first time through, you should sing it," he said. Tim, our awesome associate pastor, stuck his head in the room and seconded the idea. They both felt is was a "Spirit" thing, not a performance idea.

So I tried. At the 8:30 service I got the first few words out and found that they were stuck to a huge lump in my throat. But at 11:00 it worked. I only had to sing the one time. Then for the remainder of the communion service, Mark and I simply worked around the chording while people in the congregation hummed or quietly sang as they took the bread and the wine.

What better accompaniment for such a sacrament? Yes, Jesus loves me! Saturday's funeral service was deeply sacramental too, and I am so grateful to be a part of a faith community where I can wear my heart on my sleeve, where honest emotion (read "Derek choked up"!) means more to the spirit of worship than correct fretwork on my guitar, and where the best laid plans of people are willing - at least partially - to move out of the way for the agenda of the Spirit of God.

NOTE: It was "SuperBowl Sunday", and the traditional service opened to much hilarity as a member wearing a "cheese-head" hat walked into church and sat next to a family clad in Pittsburgh Steelers gear. The Pittsburgh contingency stood up and moved ten feet down the pew. The cheesehead followed. It took Rebekah a good minute or more to settle the crowd down!

1 comment:

  1. It was even more fun to wear the cheesehead as a pastor!!! Yes, I wore it to the church I'm serving as part of Souper Bowl Sunday! It just happened that the Packers were in along with the Steelers, which many in this part of OH, support and others can't abide.
    I got the cheesehead (in WI of course!) for a cheese costume and I love that it is Swiss cheese - a nod to my heritage.
    Sounds like a wonderful church and that you gave the offering of your heart and also your soul. I pray it was healing for you and a blessing to all gathered that day.