When I was between degrees (Strategy: Economy tanked? No job? Get another degree!), I landed a job in the Parts and Service Department of an appliance store.
I got to know a lot of service technicians. They were great, down to earth and they knew how to fix stuff. I loved the job: someone not-very-happy would come to the counter one day and within a week would go out with a grin and their thing-fixed-as-good-as-new.
A technician’s world is simple and rewarding. Things just get sorted.
When I was ordained I thought I had left that world behind. Take a look at this. This is an actual conversation of some ministers’ thoughts on worship services:
- “We’re doing Prayer C, to focus on God…” “I find A more penitential utiilizing it in Advent and Lent, and prefer B and C (mixing in EOW) in Ordinary Time…”
- “We’ll do a combo of Prayers A, C, and EOW 1…” “I came here in Eastertide and they were using B, which seemed odd to me…” “I’m thinking to switch to A for a while, then slip C in mid-summer…”
- “D is the awesomest and I think it’s length would be mitigated if it, like C, it had a set of frequent responses for the People…” “I used D for Pentecost and will for Trinity and then alternate C and A going forward…” “We’re using C for the summer (including our services outdoors in creation)…”
- “This past year we used A during Advent, B during Christmas and Epiphany, Rite 1 during Lent, and D during Easter. I liked that rhythm…” “My associate likes A, I like B, but both of us on occasion are led by the Spirit to C or D. Keeps us all on our toes and discerning…” “My desire is that folk know enough service music (particularly memorial acclamation settings) that they can flow amongst the options…”
Our seminaries and theological colleges are designed to produce service technicians.
“There, another Sunday sorted,” as we watch someone not-very-happy who came to the counter and within an hour go out with a grin and their thing-fixed-as-good-as-new.
Service technicians understand how things work because they can see it, get their hands on it, and fix it to get a desired result. They follow predicted patterns along clearly defined paths. You fix what is in the box. The problem is our worship is grounded in the world of unseen things outside the box.
Why do we begin with what we see and work so hard to struggle to unseen things?
The problem is God is unseen.
An unseen God is no problem when you are taught worship is a cultural expression of a people. Our service technician industry works that way.
Yet Holy Scripture repeatedly returns to the simple fact that what is true and eternal is unseen. 2 Corinthians 4.18 grounds our present realities within this true and eternal reality of the presence of God: “…because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (NRSV)
What we need to develop and nurture is the ability to see with our ears. When the grand narrative of the Holy Scripture themselves permeates our souls we begin to see with new eyes what has up to that time escaped our notice.
As a leader of worship I am meant to be like Elisha in 2 Kings 6:17, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” Elisha, the man of God, has walked in close fellowship with the Lord in prayer and His Word. Hearing His voice in the sheer silence (1 Kings 19.12) gave Elisha his eyes to see.
Seeing with our ears lets God burst into the box.