A few weeks ago, my oldest son was playing guitar in our basement. The music was loud and he didn’t see me coming, so I stood and listened for a while. It was a piece I’ve never heard him play, but I instantly recognized his soulful heart behind it.
After a few seconds, he sensed my company and stopped. That’s when I heard it: other music coming from somewhere.
He held up his smart phone and answered the question before I asked, “I find these background tracks on YouTube and jam to them. It’s fun.”
I replied, “You sounded great. Sorry I interru…” But he was already back at it; focused and fingering away.
I walked away pondering my son, his music, and that track. I remembered reading somewhere that liturgy is like a track for worship. Seeing and hearing my son triggered that memory and got me thinking about worship and liturgy … and kids.
Children have a hard time understanding liturgy. And we – as a generation – haven’t been good teachers of it.
“Sit still, “ we say. “Bow your head. Sing. Stand up. Listen to the sermon. Be good.”
Somewhere along the way, we’ve led them to believe that worship is about their goodness and endurance.
And maybe we’re starting to believe it for ourselves.
It might be time for us all to re-learn and review what worship in “big church” is all about.
Worship is the harmony of submission and self-expression played from the heart.
It’s where we corporately and individually contribute to a greater score.
It’s how we join the mountains, the hills, and the trees of the field in careful listening and bold responding to our Creator.
How can we help our kids understand all of this? How can we help ourselves?
What if, in our homes, we tuned our hearts to the call of worship every morning and encouraged our kids to respond to it in their own way?
What if, as a family, we so regularly practiced confession and forgiveness that it was easy for our kids to recognize God’s grace?
What if we practiced radical generosity so often in our homes and communities that it became second nature for our kids to offer themselves in gifts and song?
What if, in teaching our kids, we actually learned to live out these elements of worship?
When my kids were little, I was wrong to expect them to play along to an unfamiliar track.
And even worse, I was wrong to overwhelm liturgy’s track – so all they could hear was me.
Lord, have mercy.
The basement jam session is to my son what Sunday morning should be to all God’s children. It’s practice. It’s a creative celebration with ancient reminders of who we are and what we’re called to do. It’s a safe place to make sure we’re in tune and on beat before we play before a listening world.
But liturgy’s track must come first. We must humbly wait for its life-giving rhythm to call us from eternity and make our original pieces worthy of God.
May our kids see “Big Church” as a prelude for a big, abundant life. And may they find their unique place in its eternal arrangement.
So when they go out and play a song we don’t know, we’ll still be able to recognize the heart of God behind it and hum along…
“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” Isaiah 55: 12
tree photo credit: Gian-Reto Tarnuzer