“There’s something weird, something phenomenally dreary about Christian singing. The Gospel singers are the only singers that just go crazy, joyous and it’s (bleep)ing amazing! And it’s born out of kidnapping, imprisonment, slavery, murder, all of that – and this joyous singing!
And the Church of England, well, all those sort of Christian religions, which is mainly Caucasian white people, with all the power and money – enough power and money to make Solomon blush – … they’re the only groups of people that could sing, “Hallelujah” without feeling like it’s a “Hallelujah!” thing.”
(Eddie Izzard – “Dressed to Kill”)
Whilst I don’t agree that Christian singing is “phenomenally dreary” I do think there’s something in Eddie’s observations, you know …
Why is it that when I feel on top of everything that worship somehow seems to be stilted, perfunctory and feels kind of second-hand, one step removed from me? Maybe I’m too self-absorbed, too pleased with myself, too impressed by my own competence to actually realise that the point isn’t my act of worship, but rather meeting God – Father, Son and Spirit – in worship.
Why is it that when I feel lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon-rut that worship can reach down into my self-absorbed, self despising, self disgusted incompetence and make me understand that in meeting God – Father, Son and Spirit – in worship that somehow I am lifted, held, healed?
Singing – worshipping – from a place of security and comfort, somehow remains as just singing a lot of the time, unthinkingly following words and tunes without ever really engaging with either.
Singing – worshipping – from a place of need and hope and knowing that I don’t have all the answers and resources I need, somehow that stops being just singing; it goes beyond melody, harmony and lyrics and becomes a place of recognition, of communication and change.
You can sing, “Draw me close to You, Never let me go …” and let it drift past you, let yourself just think it’s a nice song with a worthy sentiment, or you might think, “Yes, wouldn’t it be nice to get a ‘ring-side seat’ near the heart of it all” (especially when you feel that you genuinely deserve a place there – after all you’ve got this Sunday lark all figured out)
Then again, you could also sing “Draw me close to You, Never let me go …” as a desperate plea for rescue, as a way of calling out, “I need to be close to you as where I am hurts so much right now, I need you to hold me and not let go, because if You let me go everything – including me – will fall apart”
If I get to church thinking that I can ‘worship by numbers’ and just see out the service to get home to whatever is occupying my mind at the time, renders it all a colossal waste of time.
If I get to church knowing that I have to reach out and up in worship, so that I can face whatever it is that is occupying my mind, it means that I see worship as vital, real and as a way to connect with the God that can change things and change me.
And, that might even raise a “Hallelujah!”