While I'm tempted to post over here regarding the brewing controversy down in Texas (about a female pastor from a charismatic non-denominational church being slated to "lead worship" at the upcoming Texas District youth gathering, "GloryBound"), I'm going to just invite you to head over to the Johnny Steadfast site and catch up with that on your own if you haven't already heard or read about it. (steadfastlutherans.org)
My topic today segues nicely from this, though, as I continue my reports on the LCMS Institute on Preaching and the liturgy. While young Lutherans will be encouraged to seek God's "presence" apart from His Word, the third plenary speaker at the worship conference, Carol McDaniel, encouraged us to seek God's presence where it is truly found: in Christ. Rather than directing us to the noise of this world as the entertainment experiential evangelists do, or turn us inward on ourselves like the mystics would do, she directed us to the classical Christian spiritual disciplines. God wants to spent time with us, and Carol, a parish church musician who also teaches at Concordia-Irvine, pointed us to how we can spend more time with Him.
Carol's address was titled, "Can You Hear the Savior Singing?" She sought to help musicians and pastors grow in their vocations by redirecting those who lead worship to the source of all true worship: God Himself. She pointed to a key problem that we in the Lord's ministry face today: NOISE. The NOISE of the world distracts us from hearing the voice of our Savior. Not in a charismatic sense, but in a real sense of being in the Word so that the Spirit can have His way with us. And her solution was a call to return to our spiritual disciplines, which she defined as "time-honored and Biblically-supported ways of placing our story within the big story of God's Word." She then offered the following rubric to guide us back into these proven disciplines: STUMPED.
S - Sabbath Keeping. This can be so much more than attending the Divine Service. It is helpful to prepare for the liturgy the night before, to arrive early to church to mediate on the psalm and readings of the day, and then to discuss the service afterwards. The Sabbath was made for man; yet we don't take full advantage of this wonderful gift!
T - Treasure the Truth. Remember your baptism. Return to it in Confession & Absolution. Meditate on the commandments before confessing your sins. Avail yourself of individual confession & absolution. And rejoice your salvation!
U - Unplug. Try fasting from the technology. (BTW, we're going to do that at Bethany next month: as part of a congregational assimilation campaign we are going to "fast" from technology for 24 hours!) Go on retreats periodically. Go for a walk without an e-book or an iPod. Read the Bible BEFORE checking your emails. Be still and know that God is God! (Ps. 46:10)
M - Meditate. Not in the Eastern or mystic sense, but in the Christian tradition of letting the Word dwell in your richly. Memorize scripture. Chant the psalms. Journal about your reflections and discuss your questions with your pastor. "Our God longs to spend time with you."
P - Pray. Worship in the Divine Service.....and worship every day. Keep one of the daily offices as a family or at least as an individual. Keep a prayer journal. Make appointments to pray with other Christians. Read books on prayer and hymns by great theologians. Pray through the catechism; pray a psalm every day. Do not give up meeting together. Pray without ceasing!
(Hebrews 10:25; 1 Thess. 5:16-18)
E - Engage. Don't just lead worship. Worship! Find places and opportunities to worship without leading. Pastors in large churches; let the other pastor preside while you just go to church. Pastors in all churches: find times to go to another parish. Musicians: go to church when you don't have to sing or play! She also added "encourage" as a spiritual discipline. Build others up, by letting them lead - and also by letting them know you appreciate them. (I think she is on to something here: though we workers don't get applause in church work, we do get a lot of love along with lumps. But do we let all the wonderful volunteers know how much we appreciate them? If our spirituality truly is extra nos, then it does seem logical that expressing appreciation for others is part of our saying "Thanks be to God". God has put people in our midst to give us our daily bread and to be "Jesus with skin on" for us. It is therefore a good discipline to acknowledge our neighbor as God's gift to us.) Therefore encourage on another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thess. 5;11)
D - Commune. And commune frequently. Disciple the next generation into our communion. Devote yourselves to the apostles' teaching, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers. (Acts 2:42-47)
Keep the Sabbath. Pray Psalms. Meditate on the Commandments. Seek Absolution. Commune Frequently. Remember Your Baptism. Do one of the daily offices each day. Pray over the catechism. Memorize God's Word.
I wonder if that's the kind of teaching the youth in Texas will be getting from their district as that non-denominational "worship pastor" leads them in their worship? Or from the Baptist preacher who will be speaking there as well? Or the other pastor from a different non-denom....oops, I'm giving in to temptation!
Thank you, Carol, for a wonderful, inspiring address. May our pastors and musicians keep their spiritual disciplines, that they may not grow weary, but grow strong in their vocations as they serve the Lord in His ministry.