Me, You, Him & Us
Deep in the Oregon woodlands there was once found a strong rock, a spry tree, and a beautiful songbird. Their purpose in this world was to give back to the Sun, the bright and shining ball of light and life. Each of them lived with that sole purpose and goal and they each did it very well. One day these three; the Rock, the Tree, and the Songbird got into an argument about who was better at their purpose.
The rock began by saying.
"I am the rock! I am steadfast and resilient, holding fast before time was even numbered. I create a footing for animals to walk on, shaped the course of rivers, and outline the horizon for all to see. I praise the Sun by collecting its warmth and reflecting it back upon the world around it!"
The rock spoke as if that settled things but it was now the Tree's turn to speak.
"I am the Tree! I am tall and flexible, waving in the wind, rustling my leaves throughout the forest air. I shade the ground to make it cool and my canopy protected the animals from the rain. I praise the Sun by waving my branches and rustling across the entire forest with my brothers and sisters. I collect the light of the Sun and grow stronger from its light!"
The Songbird listen to both the Rock and the Tree with great interest before he spoke.
"I am the Songbird! I carry a song in my throat and move from place to place carrying my music for all the animals of the forest to hear. I praise the Sun by the very songs I sing. Every day they are new and they are heard by all. I use the light of the sun to show me the places I need to go!"
It seemed as though the Rock, the Tree, and the Songbird were at an impasse. None of them could decide which of the three had the greatest purpose and which was best at praising the Sun.
Being involved in worship as long as I have there has invariably been times where people have come to ask my thoughts or opinions on specific worship-centric topics.
Is it praise or worship?
Is it prayers or singing?
Message or music?
Lifting hands or not?
Standing or sitting?
Hymns or choruses?
Shouts or silence?
And the list could go on. Denominations have been created for no less than a dispute over the color of carpet or the change in worship style. These are no small things to be sure but all these preferences caused my over-active imagination to create a story about a rock, a tree, and a bird. The one you began reading just a bit ago.
It's a modern day parable, I suppose, but one, I believe, that warrants reflection. Worship can be a very touchy subject. A "sacred cow" if you will, and it is something that I don't take lightly at all. My heart has always been to create a space of freedom that encourages and challenges in the same stroke of the brush. Encouragement is something everyone loves. Not always so in the challenges. I know this because I've lived this.
The beauty though is this; The Creator paints these encouragements and challenges with a light hand understanding that the colors on the canvas will always become more vibrant as He adds color and shadow.
And it's the shadow that makes the color stand out.
My heart is to be a brush. The soft brush in a skilled hand who has an incredible masterpiece He wants to create in His church.
Let's together, as one, choose to be his canvas. Willing to take the color both light and dark.
And so they argued the Rock, the Tree, and the Songbird.
On and on they went, day after day spent in argument until the Rock grew brittle and cold. The Tree became dry and frail, and the Songbird withered and lost it's song. Their focus was no longer on the Sun but upon themselves and upon each other.
Finally came a day that in the middle of their argument the Sun in its glorious radiance spoke out with a booming thunder.
"Why do you argue as to who is the greatest amongst you?"
At once the three created beings fell silent.
"It is I, the Sun, who gives you purpose and calls you live your lives under my light. I tell you truly! None of you are greater than the other, and even so I have made each of you in a way to serve and benefit from the other. Your praise of me alone is good but your praise of me together is altogether the greatest of praise I could receive!
Dear Tree, do you not see that it is the Rock who gives you purchase and a foundation with which to set your roots. Without him you branches could not reach and sway the way I've fully intended!
Sweet Songbird, are you blind to the Tree's benefit to you? It's branches give you rest, it's seed your food and it's brambles make to give you home. Without the Tree you would be a wanderer without a song.
Precious Rock, can you not hear the Songbirds gift to you? It's song gives you a voice. As the Songbird sings, it's songs echo off of your standing and carry out into the world. Your voice is her voice.
You see my friends separate you praise the Sun wonderfully but it's only when you work together that the praise of the Sun reaches the forests beyond, permeates the earth below and fills the heavens with song!"
And so from that day and beyond the Rock, the Tree, and the Songbird looked at the differences as strengths working together to forever bring praise to the Sun.
Decidedly a work of fiction but the story helps to drive home a point. The differences in worship are not things to be adversely affected by. They aren't inherently bad or wrong. They are just different. Unique to each person, culture, tribe, and nation. As long as the worship is directed towards God then the worship is beautiful.
It's my hope that we would not work towards driving wedges and pointing out differences but that we would begin to see how the uniqueness of each worshipper challenges, emboldens and harmonizes with our own.
There is a book in the Bible that encourages people to sing to the Lord a new song (psalm 96). That new song may be an actual song, or it could be a raising or waving of hands. It could be a new prayer or a shout of praise. It could be the excitement of God to cause you to leap, or clap, or cry. It would be anything really, but the active word in the passage is "new" meaning something you haven't done before. It's a scripture that gives permission.
Our worship is an outward expression of an inward transformation.
So you may be like the Songbird, ready to sing out. Or like the Tree with hands raised and waving, or you may even be like the Rock, ever steadfast and steady before the Lord. Just remember that God's intention for worship has always been community.
The "we" over the "me".
So may our ways of worship work together and celebrate the one true King who is worthy of all worship in all ways, at all times.