“The psalm blended all voices together, and caused one single fully harmonious chant to arise; young and old, rich and poor, women and men, slaves and free, all sang one single melody… All the inequalities of social life are here banished. Together we make up a single choir in perfect equality of rights and of expression whereby earth imitates heaven.” ~Ignatius, 110 AD
I had the most wonderful weekend singing with God’s children. You can’t believe all the singing.
Friday night and all day Saturday I was blessed to be able to sing praises to our Father with more than two thousand teenagers at WinterFest at the Arlington Convention Center. Over two thousand kids! Singing. Praising. Clapping. Stomping. Dancing. Twirling. Hand motions. Loud. Energetic. Enthusiastic. Singing of the very best kind. True offerings from the soul. Genuine praise and thanksgiving from the heart. The kind of singing that fosters Christian unity. The kind of singing that strengthens Christian bonds. The kind of singing that ushers one directly to the throne room of God.
I’ll bet we sang over a hundred different songs together at WinterFest Friday and Saturday. And not one of them — I promise — was written before 1980.
Sunday night, I was blessed to be able to sing praises to our Father with about two dozen of my Legacy brothers and sisters and another two dozen or so residents of the Sterling House Nursing Home in Richland Hills. As part of the NEXT challenge, our Small Group has teamed up with another to spend an hour with those sweet people at least once a month. About forty of us total Sunday evening. Singing. Praising. Toe tapping. Smiling. Head nodding. Amen-ing. Four part harmonies. Not too fast, not too slow. Just right. Singing of the very best kind. True offerings from the soul. Genuine praise and thanksgiving from the heart. The kind of singing that fosters Christian unity. The kind of singing that strengthens Christian bonds. The kind of singing that ushers one directly to the throne room of God.
I’ll bet we sang 25 different songs together at Sterling House Sunday night. And not one of them — I promise — was written after the Depression.
I want my children to take very seriously the words of Paul in Romans 12: In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. That’s why our girls were right there with Carrie-Anne and me all weekend, with the crazy teenagers at WinterFest and with the sweet old people at Sterling House. I want my kids to see what I see, I want them to feel what I feel, to truly know what I know: that The Old Rugged Cross means as much to that older woman in the wheelchair as You Have Turned (my mourning into dancing, whoop! whoop!) means to that 12-year-old-girl clapping in the aisle. That it is critically important for the younger people to join in the congregational singing of Blessed Assurance and Anywhere with Jesus. And that it is just as important for the older people to join in the congregational singing of Days of Elijah and Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.
Why do the teens at WinterFest smile? Why do they sing? Because they’re expressing themselves to God — they’re declaring his praises and experiencing his grace — in their own style, in their own language, in their native tongue. They are free.
Why do the older people at Sterling House smile? Why do they sing? Same reason.
Now, does it give you joy to encourage a teenager in the faith? Does it bring you godly pleasure to tell a child he is important to you or that she is vital to your church family? Then why don’t you unfold your arms and wipe off that scowl and join them with gusto the next time your worship leader starts Blessed Be Your Name! Or is it only about you?
Teenaged brother or sister in Christ, does it make you feel good to encourage an older person? Does it lift your spirits to tell a senior citizen that she is vital to your church family? That he matters to you? Then why don’t you put down the iPhone and wipe the frown off your face and join them with gusto the next time your worship leader starts How Great Thou Art! Or is it only about you?
A gathering of God’s people all truly giving themselves to God in song really is incredible. But it only imitates heaven when the congregants are giving themselves to each other as well. The greatest joy I received and the greatest blessing I encountered over this wonderful weekend was in watching a couple of people almost twice my age shout out Couldn’t Keep It To Myself Friday night and watching the teens in our Small Groups sing A Wonderful Saviour Sunday night.
Earth really imitating heaven.