I first became acquainted with Ben Larson at a pastor’s event where he, along with three friends, led the music and worship. I never knew Ben well personally, but knew him to be a kind and generous person who had a talent when it came to music. Over the years there were many opportunities to be led in song and worship by this quartet of talented people and to learn some of the music Ben had composed. All of us who knew Ben and his family grieved deeply when Ben died. So when his parents, Judd and April, approached us about this project they were working on to honor Ben and the music he composed, we chose to participate.
As we listened to the music it began to fill my heart and soul. All of us gathered in the Upper Room began to sing along as we listened. It was the same liturgy words that I knew growing up, set to music that was catchy and accessible to the non-musical folks. It somehow bridged the gap between traditional liturgy settings and camp music. Those who met with April and Judd that barely spring day agreed that our congregation could learn and appreciate this new liturgical setting. Soon a plan was devised to introduce the congregation to this new setting for the season following Easter. Many of you availed yourself of the CD we provided on Easter and the weeks following, taking the opportunity to listen and sing in your cars and homes. I don’t know about you, but I found myself singing parts of this setting while doing chores! Starting in May, we began to teach different elements of the setting, and I watched as the congregation came alive. It was pretty phenomenal to hear the congregation singing at full voice the Holy, Holy. That doesn’t happen as often as one would think. But there I was, standing at the Table, the sacrament in front of me and the congregation singing praises – it was one of the holiest moments.
I grew up knowing and loving the Lutheran Book of Worship (affectionately known as the green book). Every Sunday we would use setting two of the liturgy. I knew it all by heart. I love setting two—it is a balm to my soul and helps me to feel rooted, just like a familiar Bible verse or story or confession and forgiveness. So I understand how changing musical settings can be disconcerting. How the shifting worship patterns can be unsettling in a place where we expect things to be stable. How changes in personnel and church policy can make you feel like an alien in your homeland. The familiar is comforting and comfortable and provides with stable ground in a world that seems like it is anything but. I remember times in my past where I felt that way, unsure, unhappy and unsettled in the place where I expected familiarity and comfort.
Here’s what else I know: God often calls us out of our comfort zone. God calls us to new ways of doing things that opens us up to know a greater love and power and mercy from God. So a new musical setting to ancient words that have been used by the church for centuries, can open up a person’s heart and soul and allow them to soar, to praise God in a way that feels like it fits, to feel like their worship can be an expression of the love and trust they have found with God and with the people they worship with. For me, this is what happened that Sunday (and each Sunday following) we first sang the Holy, Holy. You see God and I have gone through a rough patch and it has only been recently where my sense of trust in and dependence on God has returned. There have been many days where my worship has been less than wholehearted and the congregation has sung and prayed for me. On that day though, when the song of the people assembled welled up it was as if the heavens opened and something shifted, something clicked in me. Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Amen and Amen!
It may be that you are not connecting with Ben’s setting of the liturgy and that is okay. We will not be using it forever and will, in a few months, be using a more familiar setting. If you are one of those people, I invite you focus more on the words than the music for they are the same ancient words we sing every week, no matter the setting.
In peace, let us pray to the Lord.
Kyrie, eleison. Lord, have mercy.
Holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory, hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
The Lord be with you. And also with you. Light up your hearts, we lift them to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin
of the world.
Being community is sometimes hard, being uncomfortable while your neighbor is not is sometimes hard, but we are all community together, bearing one another’s burdens and sharing each other’s joys. Pastor Stanton, the Worship and Music team and myself appreciate your feedback and work to make worship meaningful for as many as possible. We would like to hear from you when we try new things, so please email or call us to let us know what you are thinking.
I hope in the coming weeks, as we sing a new setting of the liturgy and familiar hymns, as we hear the ancient stories told and preached about in new ways, as we enjoy the beautiful weather in between the stormy days, that you will experience the love, joy, mercy and grace that God has for you and that some of those ways will surprise you as God seeks new ways to make himself known.