Monday, July 20, 2009

It's About The Heart

One of the challenges of the context in which I so often have been called to work is that there is so much sensitivity surrounding worship issues. From song choices, to choice of words, etc., opinions are diverse and strongly held. When you move into a new cultural context, or between them (as I so often do), you face all the more challenges sorting them out. While sometimes the same issues do appear time and again, the cultural nuances behind them are often different and harder to sort out and reconcile.

In any case, I just wanted to offer the following to meditate on:

Roberta King, a professor of ethnomusicology at Fuller Seminary, has said that when it comes to song: God wants to be understood, and God is receptor oriented. So sometimes the setting needs to determine not only which songs we choose but also which concerns are primary in evaluating songs. But generally, is the message clear for those singing? Is it singable (language wise, musically)? Is it something culturally relevant to their context (not only lyrically but musically), etc.
The advantage we have is that God understands our hearts even when our language or musical expressions are imperfect. So I guess in some ways, the joy of expression, the passion, far outweighs the linguistic and musical correctness. Certainly that is the case for God's reception of things. But then again, just as the sermons teach theological concepts, so do the songs. And many cultures (Ghana for example) use songs to teach Scripture memorization. So again, context does add to determining criteria and they way criteria are prioritized...

But above all, beyond criteria, we are human and frail and have limited understandings. Every denomination and theologian out there, if and when they get to heaven, will find many errors in their way of thinking and interpreting scriptures which surprise them. God alone is all knowing and all seeing. We must remember that our hearts are what matters. Do we really love God? Are we passionate in our faith? Do we follow His commands, including loving our neighbors as ourselves? Are these things obvious to the world around us? If we fail in this area, none of the rest is going to matter a great deal. Being genuine but wrong is likely more acceptable in heaven than being selfish and not authentic in our faith and love for God and one another. If we spent more time focused on that than arguing details of our differences, etc. (which by the way are really little things in the overall picture), we'd be happier and more successful in our Christian walks.

I say this as much for myself as anyone else. It's something I think all of us need to constantly work on.

For what it's worth...

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