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Lessons from… an organ solo

November 3, 2008

Readers warning! This may be controversial, frustrating, divisive, and otherwise totally inappropriate for younger readers.

Ok, I exaggerated a little.

Let me set the stage. A morning service in a rather traditional “but-if-we-lie-to-ourselves-enough-we-can-almost-think-we-are-a-blended” church. A rather contemporary song has been sung, but it has been toned down considerably so as to not offend the wealthy, I mean, the older members. It is received beautifully. People are crying, babies are laughing, the Spirit is moving in such a way that people can’t help from shouting, “Hallelujah!” “Amen” or my favorite, “dy-no-MITE!”

A few congregational numbers are sung, and we find ourselves in the part of the worship service called the offering, or in pop-culture terms, intermission.

The ushers come forward, the prayer is over, and the instrument of the morning offertory begins…the organ.

Elementary children dive for cover, teens begin to roll their eyes, twenty-something’s chuckle quietly, while the mature thirty-something’s take last minute wagers and set the over/under on how long the solo will go.

The organ is played, well, for an organ, masterfully. The organist’s feet are moving about the pedals in a way that is strangely similar to a caffeinated kid at a carnival playing whack-a-mole. Tones, bells, trumpets, clarinets and moose calls are coming from every speaker in the auditorium.

The pastor on the platform, a relative master at controlling facial expressions, is performing marvelously. He is juked once with a “false-ending,” a time when the average pew sitter thinks the song is over, only to be surprised by a noise that can only be categorized as the voice of God coming from the bass speakers, thus continuing the song.

Cut to the closing measures of the solo. Car alarms begin to erupt, a Tsunami forms in the baptismal pool, and the senior saints awaken from their slumber certain that they just heard, and missed, the voice of the archangel.

And, silence.

It’s over. The experience is complete.

But it seems to be missing one thing.

Did anyone, one person, have any idea what song was being played? Did someone hear the text, and allow the Spirit to challenge them? Or did they completely miss the point, worrying more about style than substance?

Isn’t that what we younger generations of evangelicalism are constantly fighting, the lecture from previous generations that style is of most importance? I argue against that almost every day. Style indeed isn’t everything, substance is. Text is. Lyrical content is. Theological teaching is. The message is. Style is simply a carrier, a vehicle, a language.

But for that 10 minute slice of my life, I was a total hypocrite. My tastes, my preference, my likes (or in this case, dis-likes), determined if I listened to the message or not. And, I didn’t. Shame on me.

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