Wednesday, August 27, 2008

August 27, 2008

Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 90 years old.

Memory is a faculty so effective, that I sometimes feel my father’s presence is physical and immediate. His exuberance for life fuels that memory. Augustine, in his Confessions, has a lengthy reflection on the power of remembrance, asserting that faith would not be possible without memory. Certainly, love and hope would not be possible without it either.

Shortly before his own death, Robert Penn Warren wrote a poem about his grandfather entitled "Reinterment, " pursuing this mysterious and elusive idea that memory keeps something alive. He fixed his concern not on his own impending end, but on the death all over again of his beloved grandfather, whose memory would not be held by any living being once Warren died.

I had a good visit with Mom tonight about Dad, reliving a few episodes and occasions, laughing a little. And sharing in the sadness of his loss.

My brother, Francis, said something in passing about grief several days ago that I’ve thought much about since: We don’t get over a death. We get used to it.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Celebration of Worship at Broadway

Brett and Carol Younger had told me in glowing terms what an enrichment worship is at Broadway Baptist Church, but one has to be in that magnificent House of God and with those beautiful people of God to really get it.

I got it these past two Sabbath days.

The ‘wow’ factor works within you from the moment you step into the sanctuary. One immediately notices the stunning stained-glass “Invitation Window” above the chancel depicting our Lord standing, waiting, with outstretched arms, for us to come and lay our burdens down before the presence of a Loving God. An invitation so wondrously extended simply can’t be refused.

Then, the worshipper hears the ministry of the Cliburn Organ. This remarkable instrument reflects Broadway’s investment in the great musical traditions of the church. Such an investment requires courage in a day when the church is going cheap for popular expressions that purport to be “praise music” but, in my mind, hardly come close.

When the choir stood, I knew they meant business for God. I have been aware of the renowned Broadway choir for years, but there is a vast difference between hearing of and actual hearing. This is choral magic, and it fills that incredible room with a super-charged spiritual energy. Such power does not just happen, but is the result of a practiced offering to God that must be disciplined under deft musical and spiritual direction.

The litanies, readings, reflections and prayers strike a resounding thematic chord that sustain the Word of God throughout the worship so that we might, as the Bible says, “hide it in our hearts.” Such an inner hiding has a better chance of happening if Scripture has more than one shot at us. Broadway lets the Scripture speak, not just once, as if it were incidental, but multiple times. As if it were, say, central. The relative silence of the Bible in corporate worship in our churches is one of the many contradictions glaring at us in our Baptist tradition these days, but this hypocrisy will end if this church has anything to do with it.

After the benediction, you aren't finished worshipping. You reverently remain seated through a postlude that skillfully incorporates elements from the preceeding hour of worship into a musical montage for us to take with us.

Several of my students from the seminary at Mercer University will be in Ft. Worth tomorrow, and will attend our services. I am glad. They will have an expereience that worship is an accurate word for.