This morning between the two services I caught the Contemporary musicians practicing the offertory for the 10:00 service. This is the song they were playing:
I realized that this sort of popular song would not fly in many churches (to be honest, it would probably not fly in our church on many occasions.) But I caught myself smiling when I heard it. As I went over the order of service with them, we realized that they did not know that there were two baptisms this morning. However, they were quite pleased -- they thought that their selection was especially appropriate for the day.
This got me thinking about the recent acclaim and controversy over the joyful wedding dance on YouTube. Some focussed on the dancing; others worried that others would request this sort of thing, but not be able to do it as well; others were pleasantly surprised that something like this could go on in a church.
This morning's local paper weighed in on all of the variety of opinion, especially among clergy and church goers. I especially took notice of those who had been long away from the church, but thought they might give it a second look, based on this video. It made me think that the pastor's decision in this case might have been a wise one, despite my misgivings about the content of the Chris Brown song. (In the interest of full disclosure, I'll just say that I'm not a big fan of recorded music of any form, sacred or secular, in a church service. I'll also disclose that I had an outdoor wedding a couple of years ago where the "Austin Powers Movie Theme" was used for the recessional and where each couple made up their own dance steps as they walked back up the "aisle." I thought it was cute and especially appropriate for the close of the wedding service.)
I'm wondering more and more about the strict line we sometimes keep in the church between sacred and secular, between holy and profane. I wonder if sometimes we don't miss opportunities to speak God's truth because we are unwilling to start where people are -- whether that place is Louis' Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World, or Bill Withers singing Lean on Me.
I'm not suggesting replacing Hymns with Beatles songs or Scripture verses with self-help books. But if we allow ourselves the creativity in our sermons to compare and contrast the world of the Scripture with the world we currently live in, why not in our music too?
I'll admit, I don't have this all figured out; I know that not every song is the Lord's song; I know that God's grace and truth are often strange, and not familiar. And yet.... and yet....
It's a wonderful world, and it's a heartbreaking world, a world of hurt and of grace, of terrible evil and redemption behind our imagining. But above all else, the greatest mystery of all is this: it's a holy world, and it's God's world, every single last secular and sacred molecule of it.