As Iím typing this, Iím sitting in a university concert hall. My teenage son is rehearsing Carmina Burana with a several-hundred member choir. Since I will miss the actual performance because Iíll be out of town, Iíve been attending the rehearsals with him. The music is powerful, the singers outstanding, and the university choir director fantastic.
A few minutes ago, the director focused the attention of the choir on a particular section of the music. He had them repeat, and repeat again, a particularly difficult phrase, taking special care to break down the pronunciation of the Latin. He wrote the words out on a chalk board, pointing out how one word ends in m, and the next starts with st, and how the choir had to be sure that the m, s, and t sounds are all heard, even though the phrase moves quickly. He had the choir take it syllable by syllable, words only, and then measure by measure, music only, and then put it all together. At one point he said, ìI know itís tedious to go over this much detail, but itís worth it.î Then he became passionately emphatic, drawing everyone up straight in their seats, as he continued, ìItís worth it to get it just rightÖ.itís like the color in a painting; it just wouldnít look the same or be as effective if you just settle for whatever you splash up there first. Itís the same with pronunciation in music. The art requires that we get it just right. Itís the difference between mediocrity and excellence. The artist made the effort, and so should we. The composer made the effort, and so should we. Itís worth it. Itís always worth it!î
Wow! Imagine if that spirit and value permeated our worship services, our service music, our childrenís ministries, our mission projects, our facilities, our publications, the quality of our pastoral care, and our passion for the people who live in our communities. God created the heavens and the earth, and called them what? So so? Paul wrote ìAnd let me show you a still moreÖî what? Mediocre way? Imagine if in our preaching and teaching we carried with us the spirit, ìOur creator made the effort to make things just right, and so should we. Itís worth it!”
I recently previewed a video about the Five Practices that had a special focus on Passionate Worship. A pastor of a predominantly African-American congregation describes the great care and time he puts into sermon preparation. ìAfter all,î he says, ìJesus said, ìFeed my sheep,î not ìslop my hogs!îî None of us are perfect, and Iím not calling for a works righteousness here in order to earn Godís love. But if we are passionate about our love for God and neighbor, this pulls out of us also a taste for excellence, a desire to offer our utmost and highest. Layperson or pastor, paid or volunteer, young or oldóthe service and leadership we offer should be our best. We received Godís greatest offering in Jesus Christ. We cannot help but offer our best in return.
Yours in Christ,