Suprise, suprise! But I am happy to report that this time, they were happy tears. I love Advent and worship during Advent. Both times I cried yesterday were during a worship experience. And, a little background you should know, I've been thinking a lot about my definition of worship lately; hence spurring this blog post. Honestly, I haven't thought much about it since my seminary class on worship. But then, over the past couple of weeks, worship and its meaning has been on my heart. And, then I was moved to tears during worship, twice yesterday. It's been a long time since the Holy Spirit has stirred me in that way during worship. And, it is good. God is good.
Of course, there are different types and ways to worship God. For me, types of worship was the most logical place to start when I began thinking about worship. If I'm being honest, I think I prefer contemporary or blended worship experiences (in general) because I love guitar music, I love to sing, and I love the relaxed, yet, respectful atmosphere. In fact, I was so interested in this topic that I decided to do my thesis paper and master's degree project on contemporary and blended worship and how to begin that type of experience in a church setting (and involve youth in it). And, then at the last church where I served, I led youth worship each Wednesday doing series like "Jesus Did What?" where we explored Jesus' life and example and its practicalness in the lives of youth. I've led silent worship expereiences on ski trips (this involved the ever popular twinkie/mayo trick ... just ask a youth about that). I've led worship services where we painted our offerings and praise to God and where I did mandala prayers with the youth. I love that creative aspect to contemporary worship and connecting youth (and myself) to God in creative, practical, and meaningful ways.
On the other hand, there's just something to traditional worship that is important to me also! In fact, life does not seem complete without the traditional worship during Advent / Christmas season. I'm sure this is because of the wonderful memories from my youthhood and familiar feelings that it stirs in my heart. Every Christmas Even when the candles are lit and lights turned off, I feel so connected to my dad (who died when I was 10) and happy tears flow! There's just something about hearing the organ as we sing traditional Christmas carols and about seeing the beautiful Chrismon trees and the Advent wreath being lit each week of Advent. It's just necessary for me.
But, that's precisely what I've been struggling with. Is worship about me? Should it be?
In seminary, my worship professor gave a metaphor for worship that really made sense to me. Dr. Meyers said that worship can be thought of like a play/actors. We (the congregation) are the actors. The worship leaders/pastors are the directors/stage hands. God is the audience.
I think that way of thinking about worship is spot on. But it flips my way of thinking about worship upside down. When I come to worship, personally, I prefer to walk away having "gotten something" out of the experience. And, usually, I do "get something" out of the worship expereience whenever, whereever, and however I worship.
Bottom line for me - worship should be a chance to praise God for the many blessings of my life and to thank God for God's activeness in my life. It should not be about me. However, often times through my authenic and sincere praise of God, I do get something back ... a conviction from the sermon, familiar memories stirred by the singing of a favorite hymn, etc.
Yesterday, we had the Christmas Cantata during our worship time! The choir was phenomenal. The orchestra was outstanding. It's beggining to feel a lot like Christmas! But, I was moved to tears when 8th grader, Savannah Wingard, sang her solo. In talking with Savannah prior to the worship service, I knew she was nervous, but I was very proud of her! Several months ago, I'm not sure if she would have so willingly stepped out of her comfort zone and praised God with her voice as she did. But yesterday, she did and she did an amazing job. I was moved to tears because that moment (and the rest of that worship service) was an authentic, honest moment of praising God.
I truly feel my heart is more "prepared" for the coming birth of Christ at Christmas after attending this year's Catata. And, I'll be honest, I was moved to tears because I couldn't help but think of the many things happening at Zion right now and the possibility that I might not get to experience another Christmas Cantata here as Savannah's (and the other 59 youth on rolls) youth minister. Not having the privelege to further feel and see God at work as Zion's students stretch, grow, and step out of their comfort zones isn't something I want to think about. But, I was moved to tears because I am confident that God has a plan and that God's plan is good. I was moved to tears because I can see God at work in Zion and because in that moment, I felt so lucky to have been a part of God's plan, here at Zion, for whatever amount of time it turns out to be (which is hopefully years and years more!). God is good.
The second time I was moved to tears was with the senior highs at "This Man Called Jesus" yesterday afternoon. The account of Jesus' life that the members of Lake Murray Baptist share is authentic and moving. It's not the first time that I've been to see it, but it was the first time for some of our senior highs. Throughout the experience, it was truly a privilege for me to sit and watch some of our 9th-12th grade students as they were awe-struck by the performance / worship serivce. I couldn't beleive how "glued" to the performance our youth were, barely taking their eyes off of the people acting out the life and times of Jesus Christ. It moved me to tears ... the music was solemn, it was during the crucifixion scene, our youth covered their mouths and one even shook her head in disbelief, and my tears flowed. These happy tears came because I knew the outcome of the scence and that even death would not defeat Christ. He loved me, each of the 9th-12th grade students with me, everyone in the room yesterday, and everyone period, so much that He endured such great pain and suffering. The tears flowed as I realized that because of that, this Advent season truly is a time of hope, mystery, love, joy, and miracles.
I couldn't need that hope, mystery, love, joy, and time of miracles more than I do right now. And, I couldn't be more undeserving of it. But the amazing thing is, for me, for my students, for Zion, for the world - none of that matters to God. There's nothing any of us could EVER do to make God not love and want us. Now, that certainly doesn't justify the things that we do that are wrong, but it does make the happy tears flow .....