i love live music. there’s something about it. the energy. the people responding to it. during a really good performance, it’s as though you’re playing to something inside me, and that something inside me is responding back to you. i love hearing an artist share a story through their lyrics, and inviting the audience in, to take part in their story. i love it.
i had the opportunity to see some great shows over this past summer. different shows. but all really good. the kind of shows i actually wanted to make sure to scratch off my list before i go. so, i now have one less thing to do before i die.
i found myself thinking at a couple of these shows, though, about the encore. about the performance after the performance. it’s kind of a funny thing, isn’t it? the artist gets up, plays a great show, and then goes backstage, allowing the audience to clap and yell for a while before they come back out. and it’s the same every time. you listen, you wait, and then you listen some more. some periods of waiting last longer than others, but every time you know the artist is going to come back out and play some more for those who’ve stuck around.
and i usually find myself looking around during these periods of waiting, during these intermissions, to see how people act. some people clap. some people cup their hands around their mouths and shout. while others just sit back and take it as a pleasant break, knowing that the artist is going to come back out, whether they tire themselves with clapping and shouting or not.
and it’s during these times that i find myself thinking, does it really matter? do i need to worry about letting this artist know how much i appreciated their show by clapping, by yelling? will it even matter? will they even notice? really, what difference will one person make?
not for them but for me
and i think it was during the most recent show i went to that i realized it really isn’t about the artist. the clapping before the encore, i mean. sure, in a way it is, but the artist isn’t likely to notice whether i clap and shout or not. not in most circumstances, at least. rather, it’s about me, and how much the show is going to mean to me. whether i clap or not, the artist is going to come back out and perform and i will get to benefit from it, as will everyone else, whether they yelled until they could no longer yell or not. i’ll be there to take part in the encore whether i cheer or not, but i would argue that my participation in that concert, by which i mean the amount i put into it by cheering for the artist, is directly proportional to the amount of pleasure i get out of it.
you may not agree with me, you may say it comes down to a matter of temperaments (“i much prefer sitting back and letting others clap”), but i would argue that we all make choices in which we choose to participate or not, and it’s only when we choose to participate and get involved that we reap the true benefits. it’s when we really get involved, it’s when we put a little bit of ourselves into it, that we take ownership. and it’s then that we get to take part in the real joy and the real pleasure, while others who sit by passively fail to see the full extent of what’s being poured out before them.
let me try and use another example to make this point.
an overheard conversation
we’ve all been somewhere public, like an airport or a restaurant, when a nearby conversation catches our attention. maybe it’s the tone of their voices. maybe it’s the volume. but the person involved in this conversation is noticeably worked up. and maybe you catch bits and pieces of what’s being discussed. and it sounds so trivial to you, but to them, it’s obviously a matter of critical significance. and you find yourself thinking something along the lines of, “i really don’t see what all the fuss is about,” or, “wow, how dramatic. it really doesn’t seem like the time or place for such conversation; i wish they would just keep it down.”
and since we’re not involved in the conversation, since what is being discussed has little to nothing to do with the contents of the book we are reading or the thoughts in our own head, we are unable to fully consider the contents of the situation, and we are left feeling as though this person (or persons) is acting inappropriately. we’re left thinking as though we would never react in such a manner.
and yet, were we to truly know the contents of the conversation, the history of the matter and all that went into it, we may very well agree that this person’s reaction is quite appropriate. were we to be so informed, we might actually join them in tone and volume. but it is when we are not involved in the matter that their reacti0n, their conversation, seems so foreign. when we don’t know the truth of the matter, we cannot take part as we would were we to be appropriately informed.
even the rocks
i remember reading a particular passage in the Bible for the first time long ago about Jesus making an appearance and people worshiping Him. i’m talking fall-to-your-knees, face to the ground, kind of worship. they were completely in awe of Him, and of all that He had been doing. and i remember others who were present confronting Jesus about this, and basically telling Him that He needed to stop these people from their response, from worshiping Him. that it wasn’t right. that that kind of worship was reserved for God alone.
and i remember reading that Jesus responded to these guys by saying that He could tell these people to quit it, to knock it off. that He could tell them such a response wasn’t appropriate. but then He said something that threw me. He said, if these people who you see now worshiping me don’t worship me, even the rocks would cry out in worship.
and i remember thinking the first time i read this account how absurd it sounded. that rocks would actually “cry out.” it’s the kind of thing reserved for fables. so unrealistic that you kind of just shrug it off, without really considering the point being made. without considering the implications of His words. at least that’s how i somehow responded. but it was only recently, it was only after sitting in the moore theater, watching a crowd of people clap and yell, while others sat passively, all waiting on the artist’s return to stage to finish his performance that this passage really began to make sense to me.
Jesus’ words seemed to unveil themselves to me in that moment, and i am still chewing on what it means. but it’s beginning to paint a beautiful explanation.
a natural response
it was at this point that i began to see that, even if i didn’t take part in the celebration of what Christ has done, and what He is doing, that He is going to be celebrated. that He is going to be worshiped. not only that, but that the appropriate response to Christ is worship. that in His presence, worship is going to occur, whether i choose to take part in it or not. indeed, it is creation’s natural response. much like being wet is the natural response of those in the presence of water, so is worship the natural response in the presence of His Son, Jesus Christ.
but, obviously, there are those who do not (and will not) worship in His presence. what about them? do they negate nature? do they somehow disprove this statement? no, no they certainly do not.
but let me attempt to use an example to explain.
i myself am colorblind, which means what appears blue to me may actually be purple to you (assuming you are not also colorblind). try as i might to argue my point, that the object is blue, i will be unable to dissuade those who do not have the genetic visual deficiency i display. that is because my deficiency, the disruption in my ability to visually process information as i should, as others do, makes me incapable of perceiving colors as they truly are. whether i like it or not, my “blue” will never actually be blue. it shall be purple, it shall be purple in its most real form. in addition, it is no less purple, no closer to blue, simply because i perceive it as blue. my inability to perceive it as it actually is does not make it anything other than itself.
and the same is true with our Lord. where some of us are blind, currently, we fail to see Him as He actually is. but that does not make Him any less glorious. that does not make Him any less loving. that does not make Him any less deserving of our worship. rather, it merely illustrates our blindness in the matter.
but, some may ask, if our natural response is to worship Him, then why do so many not worship Him? if our natural response is to worship, then why is it not more prevalent? and here is where we must point out that while sometimes what is natural can be observed by the majority, that is not always so.
for example, whereas natural visual perception can be observed by the majority (the majority of the population is not colorblind, and the natural presentation is not to be colorblind), there are instances whereby what is deemed natural is actually displayed by the minority.
if i may use another example, women naturally have hairy legs, but that is not what we observe in the majority of women in our culture (thank goodness!). the majority of women in our culture do not have hairy legs, but that does not change one’s natural predisposition to grow hair, it merely changes the pattern we observe in the majority (i.e. shaven legs). in the same way, while the vast majority of people do not naturally worship Christ, walking with Him is something they have to work for (if it happens at all), that does not change our nature, which is to worship Him. in both cases, something is interfering with the natural response. in the case of women with shaven legs, cultural norms are interfering. in the case of not worshiping Him, it is our original sin and separation from Him passed down from our very first ancestors that is interfering in what should be our natural response to Him. at least, that is what His Word teaches.
a matter of taste
no, God’s worth of our worship, and our natural inclination to do so, is not diminished by the spiritual blindness of many. nor is it a matter of taste, as in “well that may satisfy your tastes, but it certainly doesn’t mine.” for, it is not a matter of tastes at all. it is not as though His suiting my tastes makes Him any more worthy of my worship (or less worthy of my worship, for that matter). He is worthy of my worship simply because He is who He is (or, perhaps more appropriately, simply because He is), not because of my preferences, or “tastes,” at all.
if that were the case, if His worth of my worship were somehow dependent upon Him satisfying my tastes, or on how many deemed Him worthy of worship, we would find ourselves in an argument of what the majority feels to be right, rather than of truth itself. two plus two equals four because that is simply the rules of arithmetic, not because that is the majority vote, or what they “feel good about.”
it is only when you have moved past the silly notion of tastes altogether that you will arrive at the place of finding true satisfaction. the kind of satisfaction you never knew existed when you busied yourself seeking what might satisfy your tastes best. for some, tastes will drive them to try all the others. to taste some of this. to try some of that. for they will feel as though that is what they would prefer. but, in many cases, it is only after they have tried the rest that they will give the true Meal a try, and it is only there they will ever be truly satisfied.
joining in this great symphony
no, it is not a matter of tastes. rather, it is a matter of truth. it is a matter of nature, and the rules therein. our natural response in His presence is celebration. it is awe. it is worship.
and as we begin to see that, we will seek out His presence in our lives more and more. and as we seek Him and His active presence in our lives, we will find it (that is His promise). and it is there, when we find it, that we will begin to join in the celebration. some call it worship. some simply call it living in His presence. whatever you call it, you will begin to notice the difference.
however, some people, as we well know, will not take part. some people will not be involved. but, it is best to be involved. (not because Christians are better than non-Christians. but because He is better than us. and because when He is at work in my life, and in turn reflected in my life, i am a better person than when He is not reflected in my life. it is not about Christians versus non-Christians. it is not about believers versus non-believers. it’s about me with Christ versus me without Christ. and me with Christ always trumps me without Christ.)
it is to our benefit to be involved. i benefit when the lives of those around me are involved in worshiping Him. and those around me benefit when i am involved in this worship. for life is best enjoyed when He is working Himself out in our daily lives. (as i recently shared with a friend, the extent to which He is displayed and reflected in my life is directly proportional to the extent to which i am walking closely with Him). when His presence is active in our bodies. in our hearts. in our minds. working through our hands, through our feet. we all benefit.
and it is then, at the moment He begins working through us for His glory, that we will take part in what He is doing all over the world. like a great symphony, where we all play a small role in making what is to be a beautiful song to be enjoyed by all. it is what i will call “this great symphony.”
we will all benefit from it (the true symphony, not an imitation of it). we will all benefit from Him being displayed in others’ lives, but it is best to be involved. indeed, He encourages your involvement. moving inside of you, even now, through His Holy Spirit, pushing you to join in the dance, to join in the celebration. it is not for His sake, it is for ours.
i pray that, when He steps out from behind the curtain once again, for His second act, that you would be found celebrating. not passively sitting by. not perceiving it as an interruption. but i pray that you would be found worshiping Him.