Ok, it happened again yesterday...someone asked me a question that I really don't have a good answer for. I know I've said that I don't have all the answers, but dog gone, I don't like being proven right. The question came from a dear friend of mine through a private facebook message, so I'll not let any names slip, he knows who he is, and here is what he asked...and I'm paraphrasing: "Why do we as Methodists never say "amen," and always seem really laid back during worship?"
I have to admit, it's a question that has burned within my very soul for the 11 years I've been leading worship. My short answer is, "I don't know, but by dang, I'd like to crank our worship up a bit myself." Now, I'm all for reverence and decorum, don't get me wrong. I'm not into pew jumping and running up and down the aisles, that's just a show. But I, too, have wondered why Methodist worship, in most places but certainly not all, seems rather staid and stale. Every now and then we'll get a hand clap going if someone does a Gaither song, but that's about it.
Worship, to me, is a celebration and should be entered into as such. Personally, and this is just Jamie, but I think God belly laughs when God sees and hears us enjoying ourselves in worship. And it's not even about worship styles, because I have to say, that battle gets old.
I don't know if our "method" has squelched the Spirit to the point that we don't think the Spirit can move during worship, or if we just aren't in to it on Sunday morning. I know it's early, and for most folks, it's their only day off during the week. I know most sanctuaries are hot, especially during the summer, and we all know that when we get still and warm, we get sleepy. Or is it that our own spirits have gotten sleepy? But couldn't we crank things up a bit? Why not?
This morning, one of the Psalms in the Life Journal readings is my absolute favorite Psalm. For most folks, it's the 23rd Psalm, but for me, it's Psalm 100. I think it not a coincidence that I was rolling this question around in my head last night, and then this Psalm was there for me to read this morning. I don't do coincidences anyhow. But here is what it says:
"SHOUT for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with GLADNESS, come before him with JOYFUL songs. Know that the Lord is God, it is he who made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with THANKSGIVING and his courts with PRAISE; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfullness continues through all generations." (emphasis mine)
In one of my appointments as a pastor, I tried to convince the folks that it was ok to actually give themselves to a worship celebration experience and I had one guy that was on the verge. I looked up during a song and he was raising his hand to God, but then he looked around, saw that he was the only one, and made some move like he was wiping his forehead or something. I admit that I was a little disappointed.
So here's my question, why not give ourselves wholly to a worship celebration experience? We don't have to go and act the fool. But would it hurt anything for the folks sitting around us to see that somehow, someway, God has hit a soft spot in our souls and we don't mind responding to that?
Maybe we just need a little encouragement, I don't know. I do know, that a few months ago, one of my choir members did something for me that I will never forget. I had made some statement during a message and then said, "That was an 'Amen' moment, right there." In just a few minutes the sanctuary was full of giggles and smiles and I had no clue why. I found out later, that on a whim, one man in the choir took a blank piece of paper, wrote "AMEN" on it, and every time he felt an "AMEN" moment in the message, he would hold the sign up for the congregation. Kind of like a worship cue card. I loved it!
So, to answer the question, I don't know. But why not? The next time you enter a worship celebration somewhere, take everything of yourself that you can. Laugh a little, pray a lot, sing loud (on key would be nice but not required), maybe even raise your hands once or twice. Who knows, you just might start a revolution and create a space for an intersection with the Divine.