Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Worshipers or Singers?

SongDISCovery is a resource that includes recordings of new music along with lead-sheets, chord charts, and some articles. Though primarily a resource for “contemporary” worship, the articles sometimes focus on issues that transcend narrow (and narrow-minded) style definitions. (Sorry, my soap-box just hopped up under my feet for a moment there).

Shaun Groves is a singer/songwriter about whom I know very little. He’s probably belongs to our Baptist tribe, though. His web site has no biographical info, but Wikipedia says he went to Baylor. He wrote an article for SongDISCovery No. 51 called “From Singers to Servants.” I thought I had already shared this quote in a MUSINGS article, but I couldn’t find it in my files. Groves writes:

I go to church with 5,000 singers. I can’t call us worshipers yet because many of us come to church only to feel better, to be served and hear our favorite songs while our kids are kept in short-handed pre-school classes. And after church on Monday, you won’t catch many of us singers at the retirement home writing letters for hands too bent by age to hold a pen. A few miles north, in East Nashville, you won’t find us playing basketball with a child of another ethnic background, giving his mom a dress or a job. And down the street, few will bring blankets, toothbrushes or a kind word to the rapists and thieves in the county jail. We’re great singers, but, to be honest, some of us are lousy worshipers.

“Worship in our English bible is never translated from a Greek or Hebrew word meaning “singing” or “songs.” It comes from words like “shachah” (to bow not only the body but the soul before God in submission – Ps 5:7), or “proskuneo” (to kiss the hand as a symbol of servitude – Jn 4:23). “Worship” means slave labor and menial work for a master when translated from the words “abad” (Ps 2:11) and “latreia” (Ro 12:1). Reverence, submission, bowing, serving, slaving.

My Bible reading this morning included Stephen’s discourse in Acts 7 where he quotes Amos 5:25-27. Go back to Amos 5:21 and read to the end of the chapter. My take on Amos 5 is that if they were in today’s context, they would have the hottest, most happening band or the biggest, best choir one could imagine. And God says He doesn’t want to hear it because their hearts (and actions) are wrong. Isaiah 1 has a similar indictment. That doesn’t mean that we don’t strive for excellence in what we do when we gather here as a worshiping body. It means that if our hearts (and actions) are not right, it doesn’t matter what we sing or how well we sing it.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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