I asked a lot of questions in church last Sunday.
I didn’t raise my hand. I didn’t state them to the priest in charge in front of the congregation. Our service is modern but we’re not that kind of church.
(I grew up in that kind of church, though – where anyone and everyone was free to interrupt at any time with any random word from the Lord, where at any moment someone might burst into tongues or get slain in the spirit, where the absence of these things was viewed as a falling-away, as a call for revival. But I digress….)
No, I took my queries even higher than that.
I was scheduled to lead worship. That means I was the musical leader for the service. Based on the scripture readings and scheduled sermon topic, I selected the music, I rehearsed with the band and the choir, and I lead the musical portions of the service.
As a liturgical church, we follow a format even in the more informal services. As a church that embraces both traditional and contemporary music, we use a blend of music for the service I usually lead – part traditional hymns, part modern worship music (see Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman if you’re unfamiliar).
So, what’s a girl who is 1) a worship leader and 2) questioning God to do when she’s on the schedule to lead worship?
Not one to make waves and not ready to open herself up to controversy, she does her job. But she does it contemplatively, with an odd blend of skepticism and fear/trembling.
And she picks music that poses her most urgent question to the one being worshiped:
“Are you there?”
The first song we sing is referred to as the “call to worship.” It is sung a few minutes before the actual service begins, while people are entering and praying. I couldn’t tell you the official liturgical purpose of it, but to me it sets the tone for the service that follows.
I chose a song by worship leader and song writer Paul Baloche:
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see you, I want to see you
To see you high and lifted up
Shining in the light of your glory
Pour out your power and love
As we sing holy holy holy
Holy holy holy, holy holy holy
Holy holy holy, I want to see you
It’s a simple, straightforward song, based on a line in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (1:18):
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…
I lead it with the same level of integrity and sincerity and musicianship as usual.
The only difference was I didn’t lose myself in the emotion of the lyrics. I think i am conditioned to look a certain way and emote a certain way when I sing lyrics that should move me, to music written to elicit a certain feeling.
No, this time, I lead it and sang it and played it as a prayer. Open my eyes. Open my heart. Show yourself to me. Let me feel your power. Let me see your glory. Let me experience your holiness.
And I waited.
I waited to see, to feel, to experience. I waited to know.
I waited to be struck by lightening, or power, or love, or something.
I waited for the priest to hold up his hand and say, “Before we go any further, I need to ask Skirt to step down because God has spoken to my spirit and revealed to me that she no longer believes.”
Here is what happened.
I played and sang well. The guitars played with me. The choir and congregation sang. The priest rose and started the service by quoting some of the lyrics followed by a prayer. We sang a hymn. I led the next few worship songs. We continued through the entire service, through the sermon and the offertory, through communion and thanksgiving, all the way to the recession and blessing.
Then it was over. I grabbed my stuff, said “thank you” to the compliments, smiled and laughed with my friends as we said goodbye.
And that was that.
I asked many more questions during the service via the music. I may break those down in future posts. But for now, I wonder if the eyes of my heart are cloudy, are unobservant, are blinding.
Or if they are as open as can be and see that there is nothing to see – nothing but my own heart.