When I’m not on the road, I have the privilege of leading worship at Chapelwood United Methodist Church here in Houston. It’s not a complicated setup. Sometimes, I’ll just use my guitar or piano and go solo from the platform, engage the congregation in a story or two and invite them to worship.
Other times, I’ll have a guest singer or two, or another instrumentalist. This Sunday, Easter, I’m having a few other guys join me – one on fiddle, an upright bass and a percussionist. Should be fun.
One of the things that’s made it so worshipful for me is that I try to never “grade” the quality of the worship service based on how loudly people are singing or anything of the kind. I don’t know what people come in with. I don’t know their lives, their troubles or their tensions. I’m sure there are Sundays where they need to just sit and listen, watch or pray. That’s none of my business. It’s between them and God.
We just try to provide a safe place – spiritually and physically – for them to find an hour our so to hear the Voice.
It’s odd, but I’ve noticed I tend to assume – mostly in a not-even-thinking-about-it, subconscious sort of way – that people are probably in the same place I am. It has to be the greatest form of subliminal vanity. If I have a stuffed up head from the natural colognes that are blowing in the spring breezes in Houston, I think, “Well, everybody feels kind of lousy.” If I’m grumpy and out of sorts for any reason, to cross paths with a genuinely cheery person makes me suspicious, at best, and, at worst, a little more teed off. If I’m energized about singing a particular song during worship, well, I’m perplexed that everybody isn’t just taking the roof off! “What’s wrong with these people?”
You just never know.
I don’t sing at a lot of funerals or such but I told my pastor that I’d do anything he needed me to do when I’m in town. A couple of weeks ago, he asked me to help him do a funeral. “This will be a tough one,” he said.
At 49 years old, the funeral’s principal character was in the best shape, some said, of his life. He was nearing the end of his training to ride the remarkable MS 150 – a rather famous bike ride from Houston, through the hill country to Austin. (We’re talking pedaling here . . . no motors!) Thousands of people make the ride every year and they’ve raised millions for charity.
Ted was lean and ready for the ride when, one night, leaving a restaurant, his friend heard him say “Oh, honey” and down he went.
The room was filled with his friends and family, friends of his two children, business associates, all sitting in stunned disbelief at the speed in which their friend, father, son, was, simply, not here anymore. To hear some tell it, there were probably 100 people there that would call him their best friend.
I had to drop my car off for repairs after the service. Still dressed in suit and tie, my friend and trusted car repair shop guy gave me a little good-natured grief at the formal attire for a warm Thursday afternoon. I told him the story. It was met with sincere interest, some degree of fascination along with a, “Man, that’s hard to believe” and then we went on with our business.
Yesterday, I talked with my car guy about something else. When he answered the phone, he said, “Remember telling me about the guy that died . . . the guy that was so happy and in good health, etc? Well,” he said, “my brother died yesterday.” He told me they’d just seen him for a visit the day before.
At 47, his brother simply got out of bed and died.
What is certain?
Are you sure?
My friend and I talked about his brother and I said, mostly without thinking, “Well, there’s another question to add to your list when you see God.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I remembered a sequence of thoughts I’d had last weekend. They came to me as I was flying out of Birmingham, AL after a concert and after deadly storms passed through the heartland just hours before.
I’m not sure what those first few minutes in heaven will be like. But the questions and the lists will probably seem insignificant and petty and completely unnecessary.
I don’t know anything much, but the first sound out of our mouths might be more along the lines of a now-I-get-it . . . “Ohhhh.”
We don’t see clearly right now. But that’s what faith requires – that we trust in things we cannot see and that we put our lives, our present and what’s to come, in the hands of a Savior that was bruised for our transgressions, buried and resurrected to give us life abundant and life forever.
Blessings to you all this Easter!