the baby and the bathwater


Lament: God is bigger than our songs
December 20, 2007, 6:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Songs are hugely important. Anyone who knows me, knows how much weight I give to the theology of our songs, the accessibility of our songs and the creativity in our song-writing: all of these, in my view are hugely important in terms of one major aim: they connect people to God.

We need good theology because we know that it is only the truth that will set us free; we need accessibility so that people can relate to and understand that truth; and we need to engage our creativity so that we are constantly attuning ourselves to the way that God is moving and speaking.

But it is in the way that our songs connect people to God that must be the context in which our songs operate.

And so there is something in me that has come to realise that, at the end of the day, a song is just a song. What I treasure the most in worship – what drives me on to keep leading worship – is that people encounter God in worship. And the more I lead worship, the more I realise that the way that God reveals his presence to his people when they sing is far greater and wider and higher than the quality of our songs could ever hope to determine in themselves.

I love hearing stories of what God does during any time of worship. On occasions it seems that God has a very specific thing he is doing amongst the whole of his gathered people: maybe we together we celebrate, or confess, or bow down. And those times are very special and draw us together as a people of God. But on more occasions than not, it seems that God is at work in a multitude of ways: almost as though he deals with each person completely individually. We may all be singing the same songs, but we all seem to be able to testify to the very individual things that God is doing in our lives.

So we can all sing the song ‘great is your faithfulness’. Some maybe celebrating, some may be weeping. Some maybe singing out of a place where they have seen God move incredibly in their lives, some maybe singing as they hold on to the last fragment of faith. In a very real way, some people can be in that place of lament at the same time some people can be in the place of rejoicing. This is one of the huge mysteries of worship.

So as I start to examine lament in more detail, I come from the point of view that a whole lot of lament happens already in our gathered worship times. I know it in the stories I hear, I see it in the tears of people as they sing. And all this happens without any sense that we are writing specific ‘lament songs’ or engaging in any specific corporate ‘lament times’.

And that happens, I think, because God is so much bigger than the songs we sing.

I’m not saying that we don’t need to be open to more corporate, specific acts of lament over particular situations, or that we don’t need to write specific songs for that purpose. But I do want to challenge the view that we don’t already have some tools that enable us to do this.

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