30 January 2012
"Half a Mile a Day"
So, worship at University Lutheran Center last night was stumbling, to put it kindest. Halting singing - unfamiliar hymns - a discombobulated delivery of the sermon - there was a general feeling of unsteadiness to the entire affair. I say this not to denigrate our musicians, the students or myself, but just to acknowledge what was there. As one community member put it afterwards, "Worship isn't a 'performance' but every performer knows that some nights you're just off - it happens in churches, too."
When it comes to worship, I follow the wisdom of Larry Meyer: "Prepare well, then let it happen. Don't pretend mistakes aren't there, but don't dwell on them, either." So just after the offering, I looked at our group and said, "Is it me, or are we just a little 'off' tonight?" When several heads nodded, I said "Good thing God's presence isn't determined by how 'well' we worship, isn't it?"
One of the most unfortunate developments in recent history is the expectation that worship will always be entertaining, even spectacular. There's no excuse for poorly prepared worship and/or preaching, of course, but when we allow our faith to be built on how entertaining worship may be, we exchange the gift of community for just one more show to which we happen to have a ticket. Christian faith is far greater than whether or not the guitarist and the pianist are in time with each other, or whether the sending hymn was a bit too much of a stretch for us this week (ours was). Christian faith is about Christ living within the community, blessing those present with one another for one another with the knowledge that we worship as a corporate body, unified in spirit even though we may not be unified in pitch or tempo.
Could a community acknowledging our being off-kilter and just accepting it be a sign of a community learning to live together in grace? I think so, particularly in this academic environment where almost every human interaction is weighed and measured, grades hanging in the balance. In an environment where many strive so hard for perfection yet ultimately fall short (sometimes with devastating consequences), we offer a refuge from perfection where everyone acknowledges our stumbling, halting journey of faith. No rockets shooting straight for glory here - just one more group of sinners, singing ourselves through the day. Some days we might run fast and free, some days we might slog slow and painfully, but in this honest community, where we take one another as we are from day to day, we cover that half a mile a day together, and I think that's what really matters.