Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brain Games in Church

Much as I love living in England, and much as I love our church here, one thing is a real cross-cultural challenge for me: singing old hymns (or in this case, Christmas carols) to a different tune than the (American) one I know. Usually the English version is so stratospherically, highly pitched that, even if I did know the tune, I'd never be able to actually sing it.

Sometimes there are even different words, as in this morning's version of Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Of the six verses, I recognized only the first one. It put quite a damper on my normal, con gusto approach to singing in church, let me just say.

But the biggest brain teaser of all was singing Angels From the Realms of Glory to the tune of Angels We Have Heard On High. The whole first verse I was completely confused and didn't figure it out until the chorus, when everyone else was singing, "Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King!" and all I could think was "Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oria, in excelsis Deo!" Once I tracked the tune, I did a bit better, but honestly it was sort of like trying to rub my tummy and pat my head at the same time.

Later in the service we sang one of the first Graham Kendrick songs I ever learned. Whenever I hear it, I'm transported right back to those dimly lit Koinonia gatherings at RVA, and in my head I hear Tim B on guitar and see Kristie M doing the overhead transparencies. Back then I was just beginning to grasp what it means to worship God. It's an ever-continuing journey that, for me, started back then with music. (A decade later, at ICF in Cyprus, it further developed with prayer.)

Anyway, in spite of the silly, narrow us vs. them attitude that I began with this morning, singing that song reminded me how much of my heart-worship has been shaped by the theology of modern British songwriters, how very much I owe them. The lyrics and melodies of Kendrick, Matt Redman and Stuart Townend, among others, have hugely impacted my walk with God.

You could say I walked out of the service less prejudiced, more enlightened and definitely more humbled than I went in.

From heaven You came, helpless babe,
Entered our world, Your glory veiled;
Not to be served but to serve,
And give Your life that we might live.

This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow Him, to bring our lives
As a daily offering of worship to the Servant King.

There in the garden of tears,
My heavy load He chose to bear;
His heart with sorrow was torn,
'Yet not My will, but Yours,' He said.

Come see His hands and His feet,
The scars that speak of sacrifice;
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered.

So let us learn how to serve,
And in our lives enthrone Him;
Each other's needs to prefer,
For it is Christ we're serving.

(Graham Kendrick, 1983)

1 comment:

Edith said...

Love this post - it made me laugh out loud - my oldest son came over to see why I was laughing. Also enjoyed the reference to RVA.

Have a blessed Christmas.