Confessions of a Song Leader (Sep 1992)

By Matt Dabbs

by Jeff Berryman
September, 1994

JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME …”

The Sunday quiet at 8:08 a.m. over on Fifth and Church Street (much like Fifth and Anywhere) is thick with the laziness of the weekend. Forty-five minutes from the call to worship, and residents for blocks around have no interest in being called.

I am the song leader. Today, arriving early, I selfishly pick a parking spot close to the door, rummage through my tired Toyota in search of a lonely, yellowed Bible, and silently grumble my way across the street, vacantly realizing I can’t remember the name of this good man of God who waits patiently for me, holding open the door to the building.

Clutching the weekly minute-by-minute order of worship, I creep into a deserted classroom, pull up a podium (I need something to lean on), and begin warming up. Making odd noises, hums and calls, hoping my voice will survive today, my heart pounds, my innards tighten, and the challenge, the frustration, the expectation of a sacred coming returns. The sweat of private, holy war breaks out again and I pause, thinking, reaching inside, breathing slowly, praying a word or two – anything to capture some small notion of the reality that stands behind what I am about to do. Some small notion of the One whose face I seek. Whose face seeks me.

Eight-thirty-four a.m. Eleven minutes to the “go.” I know the songs, know the new tunes, know strategies to cope with mishaps, with boredom – even with prayer requests! But do I know the God who waits inside the praise soon to rise from my mouth?

THE LORD IS IN HIS HOLY TEMPLE …”

Car doors slam. Children too young to look both ways run into the street, ignoring Mommy’s warning cries, sloughing off Daddy’s commands. The older folks smile warm smiles, smiles that seem mature and full, as if they belong to a sepia-toned past, a past not only distant, but perhaps irrelevant in a distorted modernity. A woman whose divorce finalizes tomorrow slips past a whispered conversation, a covert glance. An old mentor who moved out of his home just last Monday sits idly in his seat while his wife is over there, away from him … away from him! A secretly abused child sidles up to the friend whom she loves, admires her dress, and wishes she were someone else.

JESUS IS LORD, MY REDEEMER …”

On the podium, in front of the people, seen by the Unseen, my eyes alternately close and open, never knowing exactly what a holy moment might hold, torn between heaven and earth. My eyes sweep into the faces of those looking back at me. I see teenagers and scattered dreamers, young and old, people joyfully expecting somedays, or keening painfully over heavy never-weres. I see fiery eyes, impish glances, sensitive spirits – children who will soon crash into the devil himself. I see elders, divorcees, twelve-steppers, widows, deacons, embarrassed illicit lovers, regular holy folk, and beaming newlyweds – all fresh from Saturday night’s living and dying.

LORD, WE COME BEFORE THEE NOW. AT THY FEET WE HUMBLY BOW …”

Each set in the sanctuary holds a man or woman lost in the maze of complexity that makes up the human experience – the human reality. These people believe in God, and yet … Mouths singing “Lord, come quickly” will cuss and rant before the day ends, and will pray again when darkness falls. Minds painting the cross of Christ into their imaginations and hearts, communing with God, will burn with lust before the golden sundown.

NEARER, STILL NEARER …”

I wave my arm. I lean on the podium. I blow my pitch pipe. All the while staggering under the implications of a God who can know each of the thoughts in the sanctuary. These thoughts, these truths, these lies, these hearts – mine among them – whirl into heaven, millions upon millions every second, and God knows … and sees … and hears … everything. And yet … And yet ….

O, LOVE THAT WILL NOT LET ME GO …”

How amazing! Yahweh comes and listens to little songs sung by little broken hearts. The God who ignites worlds leans over me, leans into me – into you – and breathes fire into our waning spirits, wielding pain that cleanses and frees. The God who rumbles through waking dreams approaches and, perhaps, smiles. The God who silences centuries, who fulds out untold forevers, for whom “now” runs eternal – this God sits easily next to me, ruefully watching me watch the time that will one day be no more.

NUMBER 276 WILL BE THE SONG AFTER THE LESSON THIS MORNING …”

And now, God speaks.

“Oh,” I hink, “that’s true.”

And always, his voice speaks on and on with these truths so true, and they are beyond me. Not just beyond my comprehension, but beyond me. What has this to do with me? I must live, decide, fight, believe, go on, bear up, endure. I must suffer and find meaning. I must cope with dying – my own and everyone else’s. I am no god. I am a sinner. I am a twisted man. I am full of blight and disease and things not to be brought to light. I am oppressed and tired, and hardly strong enough to listen, much less act. I, like God, so unlike God, am that I am. Am what I am. Nothing more, and no mere Sunday words can change the “I am” in me.

… AS WE STAND AND SING.”

Rustle, rustle, et the pitch, start the song. Oh no, is it time to respond to the Lord again? So soon? Must I speak back to you, Lord? Must I reply to this word of yours?

“JUST AS I AM, WITHOUT ONE PLEA…”

How does a song leader “come forward”? how does an arm-waver throw himself at the feet of God in confession, brokenness and hunger? I don’t know, but I constantly want to, and do. What else can I do as I sing these undeniable words? Just as I am isn’t much.

“LAMB OF GOD, I COME …”

Mere words bring no comfort, no change. Songs bring no healing. Prayers hold no power in and of themselves, and the prayers today, for the man and woman in the eleventh row on the right, have been empty and cold.

“BREATHE ON ME< BREATH OF GOD…”

Please. Something. Anything. Please, God.

What happens on a Sunday morning?

God comes, that’s what.

The Maker descends. He comes. He listens. He watches. He revels, weeps, turns away, enfolds, comforts, reveals, encounters. He himself, his Person, his Action, changes the “I am” in me from tragedy … to glory. To glory!

And what do we do on these Sundays? Why do we come? To respond. We fall on our knees, on our faces. We sing songs too small, give praises too tiny when held up against his immensity, his fathomlessness. We come to be loved.

We come – in all our ugliness, in soiled lives, in sin-filled moments – to find God finding us.

“AND ALL GOD’S PEOPLE SAID – ‘AMEN.'”

Another great job, someone says, and how much we all enjoyed the singing today.

Turning down South Eleventh, God turning with me, I know – and I smile for joy – that mine is a Father who transforms quiet, shouting struggles into Sunday morning songs, songs fraught with sin and pain and longing and joy, even filled with humanity.

What happens on a Sunday morning?

My God comes to me – running, laughing, warring, weeping – loving me, lifting me, holding me, knowing me, carrying me another step toward final reality, final hope, final victory.Wineskins Magazine

Jeff Berryman is an Instructor of Theater at Abilene Christian University. Jeff, Anjie, and their twoo children attend the Highland Church of Christ, where Jeff is the song leader.

categoria commentoNo Comments dataJanuary 28th, 2014
Read All

About...

Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

Share

FacebookTwitterEmailWindows LiveTechnoratiDeliciousDiggStumbleponMyspaceLikedin

Leave a comment