The Big Music

"I have heard the big music
And I'll never be the same
Something so pure
Just called my name"

So I’ve been musing of late about music as a small part of worship.  If music creates time and space to retreat from our daily demands and to meet afresh with God, to hear Him and respond with openness and then to walk back out into our “everyday, ordinary life – our sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking around life – and to place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1-2, The Message), then it has achieved its purpose.  Sometimes, I wonder if I can get caught up in  the music – a corporate sing song or knees up , if you like.

At other times I can just look around our congregation and see people responding in their own individual way.  I can see people praising God in spite and despite of some pretty difficult personal circumstances.  I can see people re-focusing their attention away from their own situation, hopes, doubts and fears.  I can see people refusing to stick their heads in the sand or in the clouds, but bringing all of their baggage and laying it down and trying to figure out how to walk back out into a new week.  When we sing together I hear affirmation of the building blocks of our faith.

“I have climbed the big tree

Touched the big sky

I just stuck my hand up in the air

And everything came into colour”

When people unaccustomed with our church traditions come to our events what do they make of what they see?  There are times that my only response to God can be to raise my hands in recognition of His hugeness and my, seemingly, insignificance.  There are times when I’ve found myself on my knees, aware of the bundle of contradictions that I am and in need of mercy.  There are times I simply know that I am stood on holy ground, my Birkenstocks discarded and barefoot like Moses before the burning bush. 

Does music provoke these responses?  I hope not.  I think my responses come from a connection of my mind and heart with what I understand of the God of the Bible and what I experience of Him at times.

Do I need a certain style of music to experience these things?  No, but I do find certain styles or songs more helpful than others.  Some of my most treasured memories involve less than note perfect musical arrangements, acoustic guitars, unassuming church halls, flats, or campfires under starry skies in the Carpathian mountains.  It’s just that for me, music can act like some kind of lightening conductor which I often find helpful.

Do I seek experience and is my attitude self-centred?  At times, yes – but hopefully, largely, no.

Is what we do at church really that different from the way people behave at their favourite band’s gig?  Surely there people are often abandoned and feeling some joy through music they can sing along to and own as part of their own life’s journey?  Could it be true that when Faithless sang, “God is a DJ and this is my church”, they were conveying the ideas of belonging, identity, community, self-expression, joy and release?

“Worship” sounds like such a redundant word in our post-post modern, post-church generation.  Yet, we worship the cult of personality, shopping, reality TV, materialism, career progression and a whole bunch of things that, whilst enticing, are merely a chasing after the wind.

I want to enjoy music, embrace the culture I find in the places God has placed me, stop my self-sanctimonious ways and be Christ-like wherever I am at any point during my week.  God knows I fall so far short at an alarming rate of frequency, but I hope and pray that we will strive for this together.

As I find it easy to be disillusioned with the church at large, and yet so grateful for the congregation I belong to, I am heartened by Rob Bell’s quote that “The word Christian is a better adjective than it is a noun”. 

Read. Think. Pray. Live.

“I have heard the big music

And I’ll never be the same
Something so pure
Has called

From “The Big Music” by The Waterboys


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