Sunday, January 30, 2011
Friday morning a blind man opened my eyes to see the Lord. Ken Medema, jazz musician and composer(remember "Our God is an Awesome God"?), led the worship team for the morning service and there was so much love in the room that I felt like he gave us all this huge embrace! The whole service seemed to be like a musical as he sung narrative lines to move us through the different "spaces" of worship, like confession and response. There was this incredibly mutual collaboration between Ken and the dancer, it was unbelievable that he couldn't see her. I think he could see her though, with his heart and mind. If you're a musician, maybe you even know what I mean, when you are sensing the other musicians to the point that you become one voice despite your different lines and timbres of sound. He didn't need to see her, because they were working together as one. We were singing "O Come, O Come Emanuel" and as we reached the chorus, Ken rose and gestured for us to stand at "Rejoice, Rejoice, Emanuel." It felt almost as if he had lifted us all into the presence of God, and I truly encountered Jesus. As I stood there with tears streaming down my face in fear and trembling, amazed at the glory of God, I said, "Oh, I get it, it was never about me, it was always about you." Then Jesus said to me, "No, Kati, it was always about you, each and everyone of you. I love you each so much that I want you to know me and I want you to know and love each other in the same way I love you." The love was so strong, it still makes me tear up to think about it. It was like a slap in the face, as if I was Paul, standing in the middle of the road, blinded by the light and given a vision of the Lord all at the same time. "Know my love for you, that you might know how to love others," Jesus was saying to me.
As we continued to reflect on Philippians, I suddenly understood what it meant to "Be of the same mind, after Christ Jesus." It doesn't mean sharing the same ideas and preferences, and it especially doesn't mean sharing all of the same opinions and gifts. These are the reasons that Jesus loves us individually and in our eccentricities. Being of the same mind, simply means to love each other, as Christ loves us. And it's that love that unifies us in the presence of God. By loving the "otherness" of others, we come to love ourselves and we are all held in God's love.
This love displacing our fear of those who are different from ourselves showed up later in the workshops as well. I attended a workshop reflecting on one congregation's journey to becoming intentionally inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities. It began with the simple education of the congregation about what one child with autism experienced in worship. The child would make strange noises or outbursts during the service, and every time people would turn and look or sneer. One day the pastor approached the family, and asked if they wouldn't mind if he said something to ease the congregation about the behavior of the child. "How might I describe her disability?" he asked. The parents educated the pastor, and from that conversation, he was able to educate the congregation. The next Sunday, after the child's first outburst, the pastor paused and commented on her response in the worship. The next time she did something, no one turned around. Suddenly her behavior was accepted. They showed her love by recognizing that this was her experiencing and taking in God's love during worship. This confrontation with "otherness" in the worship service led them to the inclusion of many new freedoms as they became a multicultural congregation. The worship that created a space which was not disturbed by outbursts also opened up space for new kinds of music and other forms of response in the worship like testimony. By embracing the brokenness in others they were able to embrace the brokenness in themselves. "We all have a special need," one lady said. "We just have to recognize that we're all in it together," like we're all in the same boat…same mind…seeing others as better than ourselves…
Later I went to a worship service where the leadership fully embodied this idea of collaboration. There were three sermonettes which served as the backbone of the service, while incorporating the other elements of the service(ie. gathering, confession, proclamation of the word) in a fluidity led by music and images . The call to worship evoked an array of senses and learning styles. Most worship services use only two types of communication: music and language. Howard Gardner says that we have at least 6 other ways of learning: personal reflection, spatial or visual, interaction with others, movement of the body, interaction with nature, and logical reasoning. This service involved them all. There were beautiful paintings which suggested some kind of fire extending from the table. The bible and other images began on the ground, and during the call to worship they were lifted and raised to be placed on the table. At one point in the service we were invited to imagine and play with a ball of clay which resembled our bodies. All of these examples point to many things and simply create space for God to speak and for us to hear God's message for us. The whole service was more about "encountering" rather than absorbing information or giving our gifts. We met with God, we met with others, and we even met ourselves.
I discussed with one of the worship leaders, Ron Reinstra, about the sermon writing process. We ended up in a discussion about the collaboration of the whole worship experience. Everything was intertwined and when it happens like this, everything keeps changing or adjusting a little as it goes on. Everyone joins in and contributes as one mind, not because they think the same way, but because they trust and lift each other up in a way that values the gifts of all. This kind of thing doesn't happen over night, but overtime as the group grows together and learns from each other, all trusting in the Spirit to lead and move.
Imitating Christ’s Humility
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
More reflections to come about the conference later in the week...now to sleep;)